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Tietl: Litl Wimen or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy

Author: Louisa M. Alcott

Ilustraetor: Frank T. Merrill

Releess Daet: August 16, 2011 [EBook #37106]

Last Updaet: August 8, 2017.

Langgwej: English

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Produced by David Edwards, Ernest Schaal, Robert Homa, and th Onlien Distributed Proofreading Teem at http://www.pgdp.net (This fiel wuz produced from imejes jenerusly maed available by Th Internet Archive)

*** START OF THIS Projekt GUTENBERG EBOOK Litl Wimen ***





i

Litl Wimen.


ii

They all drew to the fire
"Thae all droo to th fier, muther in th big chaer, with Beth at her feet"

(See paej 9) Frontispeess


iii

Litl Wimen

OR

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy


BY

LOUISA M. ALCOTT

AUTHOR OF "Litl MEN," "AN Oeld-Fashond Gurl"
"Spining-WHEEL Storys," ETC.


With mor than 200 ilustraeshons by Frank T. Merrill and a pikcher of th Hoem of th Litl Wimen by Edmund H. Garrett




BOSTON
Litl, Broun, AND COMPANY


iv Entered acording to Akt of Congres, in th yeers 1868 and 1869, by

LOUISA M. ALCOTT,

In th Clurk's ofis of th District Cort of th District of Massachusetts.

Copyriet, 1880,

By LOUISA M. ALCOTT.

Copyriet, 1896,

By JOHN S. P. ALCOTT.



BOSTON

Alfred Mudge & Sun Inc. Printers


v

Preface

"Go then, mi litl Book, and sho to all

That entertain and bid thee welcum shal,

Whut thow dost keep cloez shut up in thi breast;

And wish whut thow dost sho them mae be blest

To them for guud, mae maek them chooz to be

Pilgrims beter, by far, than thee or me.

Tel them of Mursy; she is wun

Hoo eerly hath her pilgrimage begun.

Yae, let yung damsels lurn of her to priez

Th wurld which is to cum, and so be wiez;

For litl triping maeds mae folo God

Along th waes which saently feet hav trod."

Adapted from John Bunyan.


Contents

vii

Contents
Part Furst.
Chapter Paej
I. Plaeing Pilgrims 1
II. A Merry Christmas 15
III. Th Laurence Boy 29
IV. Burdens 43
V. Being Naeborly 58
VI. Beth fiends th Palis Buetiful 73
VII. Amy's Valy of Huemiliaeshon 82
VIII. Jo meets Apollyon 91
IX. Meg goes to Vanity Faer 104
X. Th P. C. and P. O. 124
XI. Experriments 134
XII. Camp Laurence 147
XIII. Casls in th Aer 172
viiiXIV. Seecrets 184
XV. A Telegram 195
XVI. Leters 206
XVII. Litl Faethful 216
XVIII. Dark Daes 225
XIX. Amy's Wil 234
XX. Confidenshal 246
XXI. Laurie maeks Mischif, and Jo maeks Peess 254
XXII. Plezant Medoes 269
XXIII. Ant March setls th Qeschon 277
Part Second.
XXIV. Gosip 293
XXV. Th Furst Weding 306
XXVI. Artistik Atempts 313
XXVII. Literaery Lesons 325
XXVIII. Domestik Expeeri’enses 334
XXIX. Calls 350
XXX. Consequences 365
XXXI. Our Forin Corespondent 378
XXXII. Tender Trubls 389
XXXIII. Jo's Jurnal 403
XXXIV. A Frend 418
XXXV. Hartaek 435
XXXVI. Beth's Seecret 448
XXXVII. Nue Impreshons 454
XXXVIII. On th Shelf 466
ixXXXIX. Laezy Laurence 480
XL. Th Valy of th Shado 495
XLI. Lurning to Forget 502
XLII. All Aloen 516
XLIII. Serpriezes 525
XLIV. Mi Lord and Laedy 543
XLV. Daezy and Demi 550
XLVI. Under th Umbrela 558
XLVII. Harvest Tiem 575
Tail-piece to Contents

xi

Ilustraeshons

List of illustrations.
[Th Ilustraeshons, deziend by Frank T. Merrill, drawn, engraevd, and printing under th supervision of George T. Andrew.]
Paej
Thae all droo to th fier, muther in th big chaer, with Beth at her feet
Frontispeess.
Titlepage iii
Preface v
Contents vii
Tael-peess to Contents ix
List of Ilustraeshons xi
Tael-peess to Ilustraeshons xvi
Christmas wun't be Christmas without any prezents 1
Beth put a paer of slipers doun to worm 5
I uezd to be so frietend when it wuz mi turn to sit in th big chaer 6
Do it this wae, clasp yuur hands so 7
It wuz a cheerful, hoepful leter 10
How U uezd to plae Pilgrim's Progres 11
No wun but Beth cuud get much muezik out of th oeld piano 13
At nien thae stopt wurk and sung as uezhual 14
xiiMerry Christmas 15
Th procession set out 19
Out caem Meg with grae horss-haer hanging about her faess 22
A litl figuer in cloudy whiet 23
Th luvers neeling to reseev Don Pedro's blesing 25
We taukt oever th fenss 27
Tael-peess 28
Eating apples and crieing oever th "Aer of Redclyffe" 29
Jo undertuuk to pinch th paeperd loks 31
Mrs. Gardiner greeted them 34
Faess to faess with th Laurence boy 35
Thae sat doun on th staers 39
Tel about th party 42
Th kiten stuk liek a burr just out of reech 43
Curling herself up in th big chaer 48
Reeding that everlasting Belsham 52
He tuuk her by th eer! by th eer! 54
Mr. Laurence huukt up a big fish 55
Tael-peess 57
Being naeborly 58
Laurie oepend th windo 60
Poel tweaked off his wig 64
Putting his fingger under her chin 67
Pleez giv thees to yuur muther 69
Tael-peess 72
O sur, thae do caer verry much 75
Mr. Laurence ofen oepend his study dor 77
She put boeth arms around his nek and kist him 81
Th Sieclops 82
Amy bor without flinching several tingling bloes 86
U do noe her 89
Gurls, whaer ar U going? 91
I burnt it up 95
Held Amy up by his arms and hoky 99
Paking th go abroady trunk 104
Meg's partner apeerd 110
Askt to be introduest 114
I wouldn't, Meg 118
Hoelding a hand of eech, Mrs. March sed, &c. 122
Mr. Pickwick 125
Jo throo oepen th dor of th clozet 131
Jo spent th morning on th river 134
Amy sat doun to draw 136
xiiiO Pip! O Pip! 140
Mis Crocker maed a rie faess 143
We'll wurk liek bees 146
Beth wuz poest-mistres 147
Amy capt th cliemax by putting a cloeths-pin on her noez 151
Mr. Laurence waeving his hat 153
Now, Mis Jo, I'll setl U 155
A verry merry lunch it wuz 156
He went pransing doun a qieet street 158
"O, riez," she sed 159
A stuning blo from th big Greek lexsicon 159
He sneezd 160
Th Portuguese waukt th plank 161
Wil U giv me a roez? 162
Mis Kate put up her glas 167
Ellen Tree 168
Tael-peess 171
Swinging to and fro in his hamok 172
It wuz rather a prity litl pikcher 174
Waevd a braek befor her faess 178
I see him boe and smiel 181
Tael-peess 183
Jo wuz verry busy 184
Hooraa for Mis March 189
Jo darted away 190
Jo laed herself on th soefa and affected to red 193
November is th moest disagreeabl munth in th yeer 195
Wun of them horrid telegraf things 197
She caem sudenly upon Mr. Brooke 199
Th man clipt 203
Tael-peess 205
Leters 206
She roeld away 208
I wiend th clok 213
Yuurs Respektful, Hannah Mulet 214
Tael-peess 215
It didn't stur, and I knew it wuz ded 218
He sat doun besied her 221
Whut do U wont now? 224
Beth did hav th feever 225
Jently stroeking her hed as her muther uezd to do 228
Amy's Wil 234
Polish up th spoons and th fat silver teepot 235
xivOn his bak, with all his legs in th aer 236
I should chooz this 237
Gravely promenaded to and fro 241
Amy's Wil 243
Tael-peess 245
Mrs. March wuud not leev Beth's sied 246
Tael-peess 253
Leters 254
Jo and her muther wer reeding th noet 256
Get up and don't be a gooss 261
"Hoeld yuur tung!" cried Jo, cuvering her eers 263
He stuud at th fuut, liek a lieon in th path 265
Beth wuz soon aebl to lie on th study soefa all dae 269
Th Jungfrau 271
Poping in her hed now and then 277
He sat in th big chaer by Beth's soefa 277
Shal I tel U how? 280
Bles me, whut's all this? 282
For Mrs. John Brooke 288
Hoem of th Litl Wimen 290
Th Duv Cote 293
A small wochman's ratl 302
Tael-peess 305
Th Furst Weding 306
Artistik Atempts 313
Her fuut held fast in a panful of plaster 315
Pleez don't, it's mien 322
Tael-peess 324
Literaery Lesons 325
A chek for wun hundred dolars 329
Tael-peess 333
Domestik Expeeri’enses 334
Boeth felt desperatly uncumfortabl 341
A bargan, I ashuur U, maa'am 344
Laurie heroeikaly shut his ies whiel sumthing wuz put into his arms 348
Calls 350
She tuuk th sadl to th horss 355
It miet hav been wurss 359
Th call at Ant March's 362
Tael-peess 364
U shal hav anuther taebl 365
Bought up th bouquets 372
Tael-peess 377
xvFlo and I orderd a hansom-cab 378
Every wun wuz verry kiend, especially th ofisers 378
I've seen th impeerial family several times 384
Trieing to skech th grae-stoen lieon's hed on th waul 387
She leend her hed upon her hands 391
Now, this is filing at th priess 395
Up with th Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee 398
I amuezd mieself by droping jinjerbred nuts oever th seet 403
Thow shalt haf thi Bhaer 406
He waevd his hand, sok and all 409
Dis is mien effalunt 410
I sat doun upon th flor and red and luukt and aet 415
Tael-peess 417
In th presence of three jentlmen 418
A selekt simpoezium 425
He doesn't prink at his glas befor cuming 428
Jo stuft th hoel bundle into th stoev 431
He put th sisters into th carrej 435
He laed his hed doun on th mosy poest 438
O Jo, can't U? 446
Tael-peess 447
With her hed in Jo's lap, whiel th wiend blew helthfuly oever her 449
Tael-peess 453
He huryd forward to meet her 454
Heer ar yuur flowers 461
Demi and Daezy 466
Mornin' now 473
Mi deer man, it's a bonnet 477
Tael-peess 479
Sat pieping on a stoen whiel his goets skipt 480
Laurie throo himself doun on th turf 485
A ruf skech of Laurie taeming a horss 493
Th Valy of th Shado 495
Tael-peess 501
Sat staering up at th busts 502
Turning th ring thautfuly upon his fingger 507
O Laurie, Laurie, I knew U'd cum 511
How wel we puul together 515
Jo and her faather 518
Jo laed her hed on a comfortable rag-bag and cried 524
A substantial liefliek goest leening oever her 525
Th taul unkl proceeded to tos and tousle th small nefue 534
O Mr. Bhaer, I am so glad to see U 537
xviMr. Bhaer sang hartily 541
Mrs. Laurence sitting in her muther's lap 543
Thae began to paess up and doun 547
Tael-peess 549
Me luvs evvybody 551
Whut maeks mi legs go, dranpa? 552
Dranpa, it's a We 556
Tael-peess 557
Mr. Bhaer and Jo wer enjoying promenades 558
Luuking up she saw Mr. Bhaer 561
Duz this suit U, Mr. Bhaer? 565
Under th umbrela 573
Tael-peess 574
Harvest tiem 575
Teddy bor a charmd lief 582
Leeving Mrs. March and her dauters under th festival tree 583
Tael-peess 586
Tail-piece to Illustrations

I. Plaeing Pilgrims.

1

Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents

I.

Plaeing PILGRIMS.

"Christmas wun't be Christmas without any prezents," grumbld Jo, lieing on th rug.

"It's so dredful to be puur!" sighed Meg, luuking doun at her oeld dres.

"I don't think it's faer for sum gurls to hav plenty of prity things, and uther gurls nuthing at all," aded litl Amy, with an injerd snif.

"We've got faather and muther and eech uther," sed Beth contentedly, from her corner.

Th foer yung faeses on which th fierliet shone brietend at th cheerful wurds, but darkend again as Jo sed sadly,—

2 "We haeven't got faather, and shal not hav him for a long tiem." She didn't sae "perhaps never," but eech silently aded it, thinking of faather far away, whaer th fieting wuz.

Noebody spoek for a mienuet; then Meg sed in an aulterd toen,—

"U noe th reezon muther propoezd not having any prezents this Christmas wuz because it is going to be a hard winter for every wun; and she thinks we aut not to spend muny for plezher, when our men ar sufering so in th army. We can't do much, but we can maek our litl sacrifieses, and aut to do it gladly. But I am afraed I don't;" and Meg shuuk her hed, as she thaut regretfully of all th prity things she wontedw.

"But I don't think th litl we should spend wuud do any guud. We've eech got a dolar, and th army wouldn't be much helpt by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from muther or U, but I do wont to bie Undine and Sintram for mieself; I've wontedw it so long," sed Jo, hoo wuz a bookworm.

"I pland to spend mien in nue muezik," sed Beth, with a litl sie, which no wun hurd but th harth-brush and ketl-hoelder.

"I shal get a niess box of Faber's drawing-pensils; I reealy need them," sed Amy decidedly.

"Muther didn't sae anything about our muny, and she wun't wish us to giv up everything. Let's eech bie whut we wont, and hav a litl fun; I'm shuur we wurk hard enough to urn it," cried Jo, examining th heels of her shoos in a jentlmanly maner.

"I noe I do,—teeching thoes tiersum children neerly all dae, when I'm longing to enjoy mieself at hoem," began Meg, in th complaening toen again.

"U don't hav haf such a hard tiem as I do," sed Jo. "How wuud U liek to be shut up for ours with a nurvus, fusy oeld laedy, hoo keeps U troting, is never satisfied, and wurys U till U're redy to fli out of th windo or cri?"

"It's nauty to fret; but I do think woshing dishes and keeping things tidy is th wurst wurk in th wurld. It maeks me cros; and mi hands get so stif, I can't practise wel at all;" and Beth luukt at her ruf hands with a sie that any wun cuud heer that tiem.

"I don't beleev any of U sufer as I do," cried Amy; "for U 3 don't hav to go to scool with impurtinent gurls, hoo plaeg U if U don't noe yuur lesons, and laf at yuur dreses, and laebel yuur faather if he isn't rich, and insult U when yuur noez isn't niess."

"If U meen liebel, I'd sae so, and not tauk about laebels, as if papa wuz a pikl-botl," advised Jo, lafing.

"I noe whut I meen, and U needn't be statirical about it. It's proper to uez guud wurds, and improov yuur vocabilary," returnd Amy, with dignity.

"Don't peck at wun anuther, children. Don't U wish we had th muny papa lost when we wer litl, Jo? Deer me! how hapy and guud we'd be, if we had no wurys!" sed Meg, hoo cuud remember beter times.

"U sed th uther dae, U thaut we wer a deel hapyer than th King children, for thae wer fieting and freting all th tiem, in spiet of thaer muny."

"So I did, Beth. Wel, I think we ar; for, tho we do hav to wurk, we maek fun for ourselvs, and ar a prity joly set, as Jo wuud sae."

"Jo duz uez such slang wurds!" obzurvd Amy, with a rerooving luuk at th long figuer strecht on th rug. Jo imeediatly sat up, put her hands in her pokets, and began to whisl.

"Don't, Jo; it's so boyish!"

"That's whi I do it."

"I detest rood, unlady-liek gurls!"

"I haet affected, niminy-piminy chits!"

"'Burds in thaer litl nests agree,'" sang Beth, th peess-maeker, with such a funy faess that boeth sharp voises sofend to a laf, and th "pecking" ended for that tiem.

"Reealy, gurls, U ar boeth to be blaemd," sed Meg, begining to lecture in her elder-sisterly fashon. "U ar oeld enough to leev off boyish triks, and to behaev beter, Josephine. It didn't mater so much when U wer a litl gurl; but now U ar so taul, and turn up yuur haer, U should remember that U ar a yung laedy."

"I'm not! and if turning up mi haer maeks me wun, I'll waer it in too taels till I'm twenty," cried Jo, puuling off her net, and shaeking 4 doun a chestnut maen. "I haet to think I've got to gro up, and be Mis March, and waer long gouns, and luuk as prim as a China-aster! It's bad enough to be a gurl, anyway, when I liek boys' gaems and wurk and maners! I can't get oever mi disapointment in not being a boy; and it's wurss than ever now, for I'm dieing to go and fiet with papa, and I can oenly stae at hoem and nit, liek a poky oeld wuuman!" And Jo shuuk th bloo army-sok till th needls ratld liek castanets, and her baul bounded acros th room.

"Puur Jo! It's too bad, but it can't be helpt; so U must tri to be contented with maeking yuur naem boyish, and plaeing bruther to us gurls," sed Beth, stroeking th ruf hed at her nee with a hand that all th dish-woshing and dusting in th wurld cuud not maek ungentle in its tuch.

"As for U, Amy," continued Meg, "U ar aultogether too particular and prim. Yuur aers ar funy now; but U'll gro up an affected litl gooss, if U don't taek caer. I liek yuur niess maners and refiend waes of speeking, when U don't tri to be elegant; but yuur absurd wurds ar as bad as Jo's slang."

"If Jo is a tom-boy and Amy a gooss, whut am I, pleez?" askt Beth, redy to shaer th lecture.

"U're a deer, and nuthing else," anserd Meg wormly; and no wun contradicted her, for th "Mous" wuz th pet of th family.

As yung reeders liek to noe "how peepl luuk," we wil taek this moement to giv them a litl skech of th foer sisters, hoo sat niting away in th twilight, whiel th December sno fel qieetly without, and th fier crakld cheerfuly within. It wuz a comfortable oeld room, tho th carpet wuz faeded and th furnicher verry plaen; for a guud pikcher or too hung on th wauls, books fild th reseses (vurb), chrysanthemums and Christmas roezes bloomd in th windoes, and a plezant atmosphere of hoem-peess pervaeded it.

Margaret, th eldest of th foer, wuz sixteen, and verry prity, being plump and faer, with larj ies, plenty of soft, broun haer, a sweet mouth, and whiet hands, of which she wuz rather vaen. Fifteen-yeer-oeld Jo wuz verry taul, thin, and broun, and remiended wun of a colt; for she never seemd to noe whut to do with her long lims, which wer 5 verry much in her wae. She had a desieded mouth, a comikal noez, and sharp, grae ies, which apeerd to see everything, and wer by turns feerss, funy, or thautful. Her long, thik haer wuz her wun buety; but it wuz uezhualy bundled into a net, to be out of her wae. Round shoulders had Jo, big hands and feet, a fli-away luuk to her cloeths, and th uncumfortabl apeeranss of a gurl hoo wuz rapidly shooting up into a wuuman, and didn't liek it. Elizabeth—or Beth, as every wun called her—wuz a roezy, smooth-haired, briet-ied gurl of thurteen, with a shi maner, a timid vois, and a peaceful expreshon, which wuz seldom disturbs. Her faather called her "Litl Tranquillity," and th naem suited her exselently; for she seemd to liv in a hapy wurld of her oen, oenly venturing out to meet th fue hoom she trusted and luvd. Amy, tho th yunggest, wuz a moest important purson,—in her oen opinyon at leest. A reguelar sno-maeden, with bloo ies, and yelo haer, curling on her shoulders, pale and slender, and aulwaes carrying herself liek a yung laedy miendful of her maners. Whut th carrakters of th foer sisters wer we wil leev to be found out.

Th clok struk six; and, having swept up th harth, Beth put a paer of slipers doun to worm. Sumhow th siet of th oeld shoos had a guud efekt upon th gurls; for muther wuz cuming, and every wun brietend to welcum her. Meg stopt lecturing, and lieted th lamp, Amy got out of th eezy-chaer without being askt, and Jo forgot how tierd she wuz as she sat up to hoeld th slipers neerer to th blaez.

Beth put a pair of slippers down to warm

"Thae ar qiet worn out; Marmee must hav a nue paer."

6 "I thaut I'd get her sum with mi dolar," sed Beth.

"No, I shal!" cried Amy.

"I'm th oeldest," began Meg, but Jo cut in with a desieded—

"I'm th man of th family now papa is away, and I shal provide th slipers, for he toeld me to taek speshal caer of muther whiel he wuz gon."

"I'll tel U whut we'll do," sed Beth; "let's eech get her sumthing for Christmas, and not get anything for ourselvs."

"That's liek U, deer! Whut wil we get?" exclaemd Jo.

Every wun thaut soeberly for a mienuet; then Meg anounst, as if th iedeea wuz sugjested by th siet of her oen prity hands, "I shal giv her a niess paer of gluvs."

"Army shoos, best to be had," cried Jo.

"Sum hankerchifs, all hemd," sed Beth.

"I'll get a litl botl of cologne; she lieks it, and it wun't cost much, so I'll hav sum left to bie mi pensils," aded Amy.

"How wil we giv th things?" askt Meg.

"Put them on th taebl, and bring her in and see her oepen th bundles. Don't U remember how we uezd to do on our burthdaes?" anserd Jo.

I used to be so frightened when it was my turn to sit in the big chair

"I uezd to be so frietend when it wuz mi turn to sit in th big chaer with th croun on, and see U all cum marching round to giv th prezents, with a kis. I liked th things and th kises, but it wuz dredful to hav U sit luuking at me whiel I oepend th bundles," sed Beth, hoo wuz toesting her faess and th bred for tee, at th saem tiem.

"Let Marmee think we ar geting things for ourselvs, and then serpriez her. We must go shoping to-morro afternoon, Meg; thaer is so much to do about th plae for Christmas niet," sed Jo, marching up and doun, with her hands behind her bak and her noez in th aer.

7 "I don't meen to akt any mor after this tiem; I'm geting too oeld for such things," obzurvd Meg, hoo wuz as much a chield as ever about "dresing-up" froliks.

"U wun't stop, I noe, as long as U can trael round in a whiet goun with yuur haer doun, and waer goeld-paeper jooelry. U ar th best aktres we've got, and thaer'll be an end of everything if U qit th bords," sed Jo. "We aut to rehurss to-niet. Cum heer, Amy, and do th faenting seen, for U ar as stif as a poeker in that."

"I can't help it; I never saw any wun faent, and I don't chooz to maek mieself all blak and bloo, tumbling flat as U do. If I can go doun eezily, I'll drop; if I can't, I shal faul into a chaer and be graesful; I don't caer if Hugo duz cum at me with a pistol," returnd Amy, hoo wuz not gifted with dramatik power, but wuz choezen because she wuz small enough to be borne out shreeking by th vilan of th peess.

Do it this way, clasp your hands so

"Do it this wae; clasp yuur hands so, and stager acros th room, crieing frantikaly, 'Roderigo! saev me! saev me!'" and away went Jo, with a melodramatik screem which wuz truly thriling.

Amy foloed, but she poekt her hands out stifly befor her, and jurkt herself along as if she went by masheenery; and her "Ow!" wuz mor suggestive of pins being run into her than of feer and anguish. Jo gaev a despaering groen, and Meg laft outriet, whiel Beth let her bred burn as she wocht th fun, with interest.

"It's no uez! Do th best U can when th tiem cums, and if th audi’enss laf, don't blaem me. Cum on, Meg."

Then things went smoothly, for Don Pedro defied th wurld in a speech of too paejes without a singgl braek; Hagar, th wich, chanted 8 an auful incantaeshon oever her kettleful of simering toeds, with weerd efekt; Roderigo rent his chaens asunder manfuly, and Hugo died in agonies of remorss and arsenic, with a wield "Haa! haa!"

"It's th best we've had yet," sed Meg, as th ded vilan sat up and rubd his elboes.

"I don't see how U can riet and akt such splendid things, Jo. U're a reguelar Shakespeare!" exclaemd Beth, hoo furmly beleevd that her sisters wer gifted with wunderful jeenyus in all things.

"Not qiet," replied Jo modestly. "I do think 'Th Wich's Curss, an Operatik Trajedy,' is rather a niess thing; but I'd liek to tri Macbeth, if we oenly had a trap-dor for Banquo. I aulwaes wontedw to do th kiling part. 'Is that a dager that I see befor me?'" muterd Jo, roeling her ies and clutching at th aer, as she had seen a faemus tragedian do.

"No, it's th toesting fork, with muther's shoo on it insted of th bred. Beth's staej-struk!" cried Meg, and th rehursal ended in a jeneral burst of lafter.

"Glad to fiend U so merry, mi gurls," sed a cheery vois at th dor, and aktors and audi’enss turnd to welcum a taul, mutherly laedy, with a "can-I-help-U" luuk about her which wuz truly delietful. She wuz not elegantly drest, but a noebl-luuking wuuman, and th gurls thaut th grae cloek and unfashonabl bonnet cuverd th moest splendid muther in th wurld.

"Wel, dearies, how hav U got on to-dae? Thaer wuz so much to do, geting th boxes redy to go to-morro, that I didn't cum hoem to diner. Has any wun called, Beth? How is yuur coeld, Meg? Jo, U luuk tierd to deth. Cum and kis me, baeby."

Whiel maeking thees maturnal inqierys Mrs. March got her wet things off, her worm slipers on, and sitting doun in th eezy-chaer, droo Amy to her lap, prepaering to enjoy th hapyest our of her busy dae. Th gurls floo about, trieing to maek things comfortable, eech in her oen wae. Meg araenjd th tee-taebl; Jo brought wuud and set chaers, droping, oeverturning, and clatering everything she tucht; Beth trotted to and fro between parlor and kichen, qieet and busy; whiel Amy gaev direkshons to every wun, as she sat with her hands foelded.

9 As thae gatherd about th taebl, Mrs. March sed, with a particularly hapy faess, "I've got a treat for U after super."

A qik, briet smiel went round liek a streek of sunshine. Beth clapt her hands, regardles of th biskit she held, and Jo tost up her napkin, crieing, "A leter! a leter! Three cheers for faather!"

"Yes, a niess long leter. He is wel, and thinks he shal get thru th coeld seezon beter than we feerd. He sends all sorts of luving wishes for Christmas, and an especial mesej to U gurls," sed Mrs. March, pating her poket as if she had got a treasure thaer.

"Hurry and get dun! Don't stop to qurk yuur litl fingger, and simper oever yuur plaet, Amy," cried Jo, choeking in her tee, and droping her bred, buter sied doun, on th carpet, in her haest to get at th treat.

Beth aet no mor, but crept away, to sit in her shadoey corner and brood oever th deliet to cum, till th others wer redy.

"I think it wuz so splendid in faather to go as a chaplin when he wuz too oeld to be drafted, and not strong enough for a soeljer," sed Meg wormly.

"Don't I wish I cuud go as a drumer, a vivan—whut's its naem? or a nurss, so I cuud be neer him and help him," exclaemd Jo, with a groen.

"It must be verry disagreeabl to sleep in a tent, and eat all sorts of bad-taesting things, and drink out of a tin mug," sighed Amy.

"When wil he cum hoem, Marmee?" askt Beth, with a litl qiver in her vois.

"Not for meny munths, deer, unles he is sik. He wil stae and do his wurk faethfuly as long as he can, and we wun't ask for him bak a mienuet sooner than he can be spaerd. Now cum and heer th leter."

Thae all droo to th fier, muther in th big chaer with Beth at her feet, Meg and Amy purcht on eether arm of th chaer, and Jo leening on th bak, whaer no wun wuud see any sien of emotion if th leter should hapen to be tuching.

Verry fue leters wer riten in thoes hard times that wer not tuching, especially thoes which faathers sent hoem. In this wun litl 10 wuz sed of th hardships enduurd, th dangers faest, or th hoemsiknes conkerd; it wuz a cheerful, hoepful leter, fuul of lievly descripshons of camp lief, marches, and militaery nues; and oenly at th end did th rieter's hart oeverflo with faatherly luv and longing for th litl gurls at hoem.

It was a cheerful, hopeful letter

"Giv them all mi deer luv and a kis. Tel them I think of them by dae, prae for them by niet, and fiend mi best cumfort in thaer affection at all times. A yeer seems verry long to waet befor I see them, but remiend them that whiel we waet we mae all wurk, so that thees hard daes need not be waested. I noe thae wil remember all I sed to them, that thae wil be luving children to U, wil do thaer duty faethfuly, fiet thaer bosom enemys bravely, and conker themselvs so beautifully, that when I cum bak to them I mae be fonder and prouder than ever of mi litl wimen."

Everybody snift when thae caem to that part; Jo wasn't ashamed of th graet teer that dropt off th end of her noez, and Amy never miended th rumpling of her curls as she hid her faess on her muther's shoulder and sobd out, "I am a selfish gurl! but I'll truly tri to be beter, so he mayn't be disapointed in me by and by."

"We all wil!" cried Meg. "I think too much of mi luuks, and haet to wurk, but wun't any mor, if I can help it."

"I'll tri and be whut he luvs to call me, 'a litl wuuman,' and not be ruf and wield; but do mi duty heer insted of wonting to be sumwhaer else," sed Jo, thinking that keeping her temper at hoem wuz a much harder task than faesing a rebl or too doun South.

Beth sed nuthing, but wiept away her teers with th bloo army-sok, and began to nit with all her miet, loozing no tiem in dooing 11 th duty that lae neerest her, whiel she rezolvd in her qieet litl soel to be all that faather hoept to fiend her when th yeer brought round th hapy cuming hoem.

How you used to play Pilgrim's Progress

Mrs. March broek th silence that foloed Jo's wurds, by saeing in her cheery vois, "Do U remember how U uezd to plae Pilgrim's Progres when U wer litl things? Nuthing delieted U mor than to hav me tie mi peess-bags on yuur baks for burdens, giv U hats and stiks and roels of paeper, and let U travel thru th hous from th selar, which wuz th Sity of Destrukshon, up, up, to th hous-top, whaer U had all th luvly things U cuud colekt to maek a Seleschal Sity."

"Whut fun it wuz, especially going by th lieons, fieting Apollyon, and pasing thru th Valy whaer th hobgoblins wer!" sed Jo.

"I liked th plaess whaer th bundles fel off and tumbld doun staers," sed Meg.

"Mi faevorit part wuz when we caem out on th flat roof whaer our flowers and arbors and prity things wer, and all stuud and sung for joy up thaer in th sunshine," sed Beth, smieling, as if that plezant moement had cum bak to her.

"I don't remember much about it, exsept that I wuz afraed of th selar and th dark entry, and aulwaes liked 12 th caek and milk we had up at th top. If I wasn't too oeld for such things, I'd rather liek to plae it oever again," sed Amy, hoo began to tauk of renounsing chieldish things at th matuur aej of twelve.

"We never ar too oeld for this, mi deer, because it is a plae we ar plaeing all th tiem in wun wae or anuther. Our burdens ar heer, our roed is befor us, and th longing for guudnes and hapynes is th gied that leeds us thru meny trubls and mistaeks to th peess which is a troo Seleschal Sity. Now, mi litl pilgrims, supoez U begin again, not in plae, but in urnest, and see how far on U can get befor faather cums hoem."

"Reealy, muther? Whaer ar our bundles?" askt Amy, hoo wuz a verry literal yung laedy.

"Eech of U toeld whut yuur burden wuz just now, exsept Beth; I rather think she hasn't got any," sed her muther.

"Yes, I hav; mien is dishes and dusters, and envying gurls with niess pianos, and being afraed of peepl."

Beth's bundle wuz such a funy wun that everybody wontedw to laf; but noebody did, for it wuud hav hurt her feelings verry much.

"Let us do it," sed Meg thautfuly. "It is oenly anuther naem for trieing to be guud, and th story mae help us; for tho we do wont to be guud, it's hard wurk, and we forget, and don't do our best."

"We wer in th Slough of Despond to-niet, and muther caem and puuld us out as Help did in th book. We aut to hav our roel of direkshons, liek Christian. Whut shal we do about that?" askt Jo, delieted with th fansy which lent a litl roemanss to th verry dul task of dooing her duty.

"Luuk under yuur piloes, Christmas morning, and U wil fiend yuur gied-book," replied Mrs. March.

Thae taukt oever th nue plan whiel oeld Hannah cleerd th taebl; then out caem th foer litl wurk-baskets, and th needls floo as th gurls maed sheets for Ant March. It wuz uninteresting soeing, but to-niet no wun grumbld. Thae adopted Jo's plan of dividing th long seems into foer parts, and calling th qorters Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, and in that wae got on capitally, especially when 13 thae taukt about th diferent cuntrys as thae stitched thaer wae thru them.

No one but Beth could get much music out of the old piano

At nien thae stopt wurk, and sung, as uezhual, befor thae went to bed. No wun but Beth cuud get much muezik out of th oeld piano; but she had a wae of softly tuching th yelo kees, and maeking a plezant accompaniment to th simpl songs thae sung. Meg had a vois liek a floot, and she and her muther led th litl qier. Amy churpt liek a criket, and Jo waanderd thru th aers at her oen sweet wil, aulwaes cuming out at th rong plaess with a croek or a qaever that spoilt th moest pensiv tuen. Thae had aulwaes dun this from th tiem thae cuud lisp

"Crinkl, crinkl, 'ittle 'tar,"

14 and it had becum a hous-hoeld custom, for th muther wuz a born singer. Th furst sound in th morning wuz her vois, as she went about th hous singing liek a lark; and th last sound at niet wuz th saem cheery sound, for th gurls never groo too oeld for that familyar lulabi.

At nine they stopped work and sung as usual

II. A Merry Christmas.

15

A Merry Christmas

II.

A MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Jo wuz th furst to waek in th grae daun of Christmas morning. No stokings hung at th fierplaess, and for a moement she felt as much disapointed as she did long ago, when her litl sok fel doun because it wuz so cramd with guudys. Then she rememberd her muther's promis, and, sliping her hand under her pilo, droo out a litl crimson-cuverd book. She knew it verry wel, for it wuz that buetiful oeld story of th best lief ever livd, and Jo felt that it wuz a troo gied-book for any pilgrim going th long jurny. She woek 16 Meg with a "Merry Christmas," and bade her see whut wuz under her pilo. A green-cuverd book apeerd, with th saem pikcher insied, and a fue wurds riten by thaer muther, which maed thaer wun prezent verry precious in thaer ies. Prezently Beth and Amy woek, to rumej and fiend thaer litl books aulso,—wun duv-culord, th uther bloo; and all sat luuking at and tauking about them, whiel th eest groo roezy with th cuming dae.

In spiet of her small vanitys, Margaret had a sweet and pious naechuur, which unconshusly inflooenst her sisters, especially Jo, hoo luvd her verry tenderly, and oebaed her because her advice wuz so jently given.

"Gurls," sed Meg seeriusly, luuking from th tumbld hed besied her to th too litl niet-capt wuns in th room beyond, "muther wonts us to red and luv and miend thees books, and we must begin at wunss. We uezd to be faethful about it; but sinss faather went away, and all this wor trubl unsetld us, we hav neglekted meny things. U can do as U pleez; but I shal keep mi book on th taebl heer, and red a litl every morning as soon as I waek, for I noe it wil do me guud, and help me thru th dae."

Then she oepend her nue book and began to red. Jo put her arm round her, and, leening cheek to cheek, red aulso, with th qieet expreshon so seldom seen on her restles faess.

"How guud Meg is! Cum, Amy, let's do as thae do. I'll help U with th hard wurds, and thae'll explaen things if we don't understand," whisperd Beth, verry much imprest by th prity books and her sisters' exampl.

"I'm glad mien is bloo," sed Amy; and then th rooms wer verry still whiel th paejes wer softly turnd, and th winter sunshine crept in to tuch th briet heds and seerius faeses with a Christmas greeting.

"Whaer is muther?" askt Meg, as she and Jo ran doun to thank her for thaer gifts, haf an our laeter.

"Guudnes oenly noes. Sum puur creeter cum a-beggin', and yuur maa went straet off to see whut wuz needed. Thaer never wuz such a wuuman for givin' away vittles and drink, cloeths and firin'," replied 17 Hannah, hoo had livd with th family sinss Meg wuz born, and wuz considerd by them all mor as a frend than a survant.

"She wil be bak soon, I think; so fri yuur cakes, and hav everything redy," sed Meg, luuking oever th prezents which wer colekted in a basket and kept under th soefa, redy to be produced at th proper tiem. "Whi, whaer is Amy's botl of cologne?" she aded, as th litl flask did not apeer.

"She tuuk it out a mienuet ago, and went off with it to put a ribon on it, or sum such noeshon," replied Jo, dansing about th room to taek th furst stiffness off th nue army-slipers.

"How niess mi hankerchifs luuk, don't thae? Hannah wosht and ieernd them for me, and I markt them all mieself," sed Beth, luuking proudly at th sumwhot uneeven leters which had cost her such laebor.

"Bles th chield! she's gon and put 'Muther' on them insted of 'M. March.' How funy!" cried Jo, taeking up wun.

"Isn't it riet? I thaut it wuz beter to do it so, because Meg's inishals ar 'M. M.,' and I don't wont any wun to uez thees but Marmee," sed Beth, luuking trubld.

"It's all riet, deer, and a verry prity iedeea,—qiet sensibl, too, for no wun can ever mistaek now. It wil pleez her verry much, I noe," sed Meg, with a froun for Jo and a smiel for Beth.

"Thaer's muther. Hied th basket, qik!" cried Jo, as a dor slamd, and steps sounded in th haul.

Amy caem in haestily, and luukt rather abasht when she saw her sisters all waeting for her.

"Whaer hav U been, and whut ar U hieding behind U?" askt Meg, serpriezd to see, by her huud and cloek, that laezy Amy had been out so eerly.

"Don't laf at me, Jo! I didn't meen any wun should noe till th tiem caem. I oenly ment to chaenj th litl botl for a big wun, and I gaev all mi muny to get it, and I'm truly trieing not to be selfish any mor."

As she spoek, Amy shoed th handsum flask which replaest th cheep wun; and luukt so urnest and humbl in her litl efort to forget herself that Meg hugd her on th spot, and Jo pronounced 18 her "a trump," whiel Beth ran to th windo, and pikt her fienest roez to ornament th stately botl.

"U see I felt ashamed of mi prezent, after reeding and tauking about being guud this morning, so I ran round th corner and chaenjd it th mienuet I wuz up: and I'm so glad, for mien is th hansumest now."

Anuther bang of th street-dor sent th basket under th soefa, and th gurls to th taebl, eeger for brekfast.

"Merry Christmas, Marmee! Meny of them! Thank U for our books; we red sum, and meen to every dae," thae cried, in corus.

"Merry Christmas, litl dauters! I'm glad U began at wunss, and hoep U wil keep on. But I wont to sae wun wurd befor we sit doun. Not far away from heer lies a puur wuuman with a litl nue-born baeby. Six children ar hudld into wun bed to keep from freezing, for thae hav no fier. Thaer is nuthing to eat oever thaer; and th oeldest boy caem to tel me thae wer sufering hungger and coeld. Mi gurls, wil U giv them yuur brekfast as a Christmas prezent?"

Thae wer all unuezhualy hunggry, having waeted neerly an our, and for a mienuet no wun spoek; oenly a mienuet, for Jo exclaemd impechu’usly,—

"I'm so glad U caem befor we began!"

"Mae I go and help carry th things to th puur litl children?" askt Beth, eegerly.

"I shal taek th creem and th mufins," aded Amy, heroeikaly giving up th artikls she moest liked.

Meg wuz aulredy cuvering th buckwheats, and pieling th bred into wun big plaet.

"I thaut U'd do it," sed Mrs. March, smieling as if satisfied. "U shal all go and help me, and when we cum bak we wil hav bred and milk for brekfast, and maek it up at diner-tiem."

Thae wer soon redy, and th procession set out. Forchunatly it wuz eerly, and thae went thru bak streets, so fue peepl saw them, and no wun laft at th qeer party.

The procession set out

A puur, baer, mizerabl room it wuz, with broeken windoes, no fier, raged bed-cloeths, a sik muther, waeling baeby, and a groop of 19 pale, hunggry children cudld under wun oeld qilt, trieing to keep worm.

How th big ies staerd and th bloo lips smield as th gurls went in!

"Ach, mein Gott! it is guud aenjels cum to us!" sed th puur wuuman, crieing for joy.

"Funy aenjels in huuds and mitens," sed Jo, and set them lafing.

In a fue minits it reealy did seem as if kiend spirits had been at wurk thaer. Hannah, hoo had carried wuud, maed a fier, and stopt up th broeken panes with oeld hats and her oen cloek. Mrs. March gaev th muther tee and grooel, and cumforted her with promises of help, whiel she drest th litl baeby as tenderly as if it had been her oen. Th gurls, meentiem, spred th taebl, set th children round th fier, and fed them liek so meny hunggry burds,—lafing, tauking, and trieing to understand th funy broeken English.

"Das ist gut!" "Die Engel-kiender!" cried th puur things, as thae aet, and wormd thaer purpl hands at th comfortable blaez.

20 Th gurls had never been called aenjel children befor, and thaut it verry agreeabl, especially Jo, hoo had been considerd a "Sancho" ever sinss she wuz born. That wuz a verry hapy brekfast, tho thae didn't get any of it; and when thae went away, leeving cumfort behind, I think thaer wer not in all th sity foer merryer peepl than th hunggry litl gurls hoo gaev away thaer breakfasts and contented themselvs with bred and milk on Christmas morning.

"That's luving our naebor beter than ourselvs, and I liek it," sed Meg, as thae set out thaer prezents, whiel thaer muther wuz upstaers colekting cloeths for th puur Hummels.

Not a verry splendid sho, but thaer wuz a graet deel of luv dun up in th fue litl bundles; and th taul vaess of red roezes, whiet chrysanthemums, and traeling viens, which stuud in th midl, gaev qiet an elegant aer to th taebl.

"She's cuming! Striek up, Beth! Oepen th dor, Amy! Three cheers for Marmee!" cried Jo, pransing about, whiel Meg went to conduct muther to th seet of onor.

Beth plaed her gayest march, Amy throo oepen th dor, and Meg enakted escort with graet dignity. Mrs. March wuz boeth serpriezd and tucht; and smield with her ies fuul as she examind her prezents, and red th litl noets which accompanied them. Th slipers went on at wunss, a nue hankerchif wuz slipt into her poket, wel sented with Amy's cologne, th roez wuz fasend in her bosom, and th niess gluvs wer pronounced a "perfect fit."

Thaer wuz a guud deel of lafing and kissing and explaening, in th simpl, luving fashon which maeks thees hoem-festivals so plezant at th tiem, so sweet to remember long afterward, and then all fel to wurk.

Th morning charritys and serremoenys tuuk so much tiem that th rest of th dae wuz devoeted to preparaeshons for th evening festivitys. Being still too yung to go ofen to th theeater, and not rich enough to afford any graet outlae for private performances, th gurls put thaer wits to wurk, and—nesesity being th muther of invenshon,—maed whotever thae needed. Verry clever wer sum of thaer produkshons,—pasteboard gitars, anteek lamps maed of oeld-fashond 21 buter-boets cuverd with silver paeper, gorjus roebs of oeld coton, glitering with tin spangles from a pikl faktory, and armor cuverd with th saem uesful diemond-shaept bits, left in sheets when th lids of tin prezurv-pots wer cut out. Th furnicher wuz uezd to being turnd topsy-turvy, and th big chaember wuz th seen of meny inosent revels.

No jentlmen wer admited; so Jo plaed mael parts to her hart's content, and tuuk imenss satisfakshon in a paer of ruset-lether boots given her by a frend, hoo knew a laedy hoo knew an aktor. Thees boots, an oeld foil, and a slashed doublet wunss uezd by an artist for sum pikcher, wer Jo's cheef treasures, and apeerd on all ocaezhons. Th smallness of th company maed it nesesaery for th too prinsipal aktors to taek several parts apeess; and thae surtenly dezurvd sum credit for th hard wurk thae did in lurning three or foer diferent parts, whisking in and out of vaerius costumes, and manejing th staej besieds. It wuz exselent dril for thaer memorys, a harmles amuezment, and employed meny ours which utherwiez wuud hav been iedl, loenly, or spent in les profitabl soesieety.

On Christmas niet, a duzen gurls pield on to th bed which wuz th dres-surkl, and sat befor th bloo and yelo chintz curtens in a moest flatering staet of expectancy. Thaer wuz a guud deel of rusling and whispering behind th curten, a trifle of lamp-smoek, and an ocaezhonal gigl from Amy, hoo wuz apt to get histerrikal in th exsietment of th moement. Prezently a bel sounded, th curtens floo apart, and th Operatik Trajedy began.

"A gloomy wuud," acording to th wun plae-bil, wuz reprezented by a fue shrubs in pots, green baize on th flor, and a caev in th distanss. This caev wuz maed with a cloeths-horss for a roof, bureaus for wauls; and in it wuz a small furnis in fuul blast, with a blak pot on it, and an oeld wich bending oever it. Th staej wuz dark, and th glo of th furnis had a fien efekt, especially as reeal steem ishood from th ketl when th wich tuuk off th cuver. A moement wuz alowd for th furst thril to subside; then Hugo, th vilan, staukt in with a clanking sord at his sied, a slouched hat, blak beard, misteerius cloek, and th boots. After paesing to and fro in much 22 ajitaeshon, he struk his forhed, and burst out in a wield straen, singing of his haetred to Roderigo, his luv for Zara, and his pleezing rezolooshon to kil th wun and win th uther. Th gruf toens of Hugo's vois, with an ocaezhonal shout when his feelings oevercaem him, wer verry impresiv, and th audi’enss aplauded th moement he paused for breth. Bowing with th aer of wun accustomed to public praez, he stoel to th cavern, and orderd Hagar to cum forth with a comanding "Whut ho, minyon! I need thee!"

Out came Meg with gray horse-hair hanging about her face

Out caem Meg, with grae horss-haer hanging about her faess, a red and blak roeb, a staf, and cabalistic siens upon her cloek. Hugo demanded a poeshon to maek Zara ador him, and wun to destroy Roderigo. Hagar, in a fien dramatik melody, promist boeth, and proceeded to call up th spirit hoo wuud bring th luv philter:—

"Hither, hither, from thi hoem,

Aery spriet, I bid thee cum!

Born of roezes, fed on due,

Charms and poeshons canst thow broo?

Bring me heer, with elfin speed,

Th fraegrant philter which I need;

Maek it sweet and swift and strong,

Spirit, anser now mi song!"

23

A soft straen of muezik sounded, and then at th bak of th caev apeerd a litl figuer in cloudy whiet, with glitering wings, goelden haer, and a garland of roezes on its hed. Waeving a waand, it sang,—

"Hither I cum,

From mi aery hoem,

Afar in th silver moon.

Taek th majik spel,

And uez it wel,

Or its power wil vanish soon!"

A little figure in cloudy white

And, droping a small, gilded botl at th wich's feet, th spirit vanisht. Anuther chant from Hagar produced anuther apparition,—not a luvly wun; for, with a bang, an ugly blak imp apeerd, and, having croekt a replie, tost a dark botl at Hugo, and disapeerd with a moking laf. Having worbld his thanks and put th poeshons in his boots, Hugo departed; and Hagar informd th audi’enss that, as he had kild a fue of her frends in times past, she has curst him, and intends to thwort his plans, and be revenjd on him. Then th curten fel, and th audi’enss repoezd and aet candy whiel discusing th merits of th plae.

A guud deel of hamering went on befor th curten roez again; but when it becaem evident whut a masterpeess of staej-carpentering had been got up, no wun murmerd at th delae. It wuz truly superb! A tower roez to th seeling; haf-wae up apeerd a windo, with a lamp burning at it, and behind th whiet curten apeerd Zara in a luvly bloo and silver dres, waeting for Roderigo. He caem in gorjus arae, with plumed cap, red cloek, chestnut luv-loks, a gitar, and th boots, of corss. Neeling at th fuut of th tower, he sang 24 a serenaed in melting toens. Zara replied, and, after a muezikal diealog, consented to fli. Then caem th grand efekt of th plae. Roderigo produced a roep-lader, with fiev steps to it, throo up wun end, and invieted Zara to desend. Timidly she crept from her latis, put her hand on Roderigo's shoulder, and wuz about to leep graesfuly doun, when, "Alas! alas for Zara!" she forgot her traen,—it caut in th windo; th tower tottered, leend forward, fel with a crash, and berryd th unhapy luvers in th rooins!

A uenivursal shreek aroez as th ruset boots waevd wieldly from th rek, and a goelden hed emerged, exclaeming, "I toeld U so! I toeld U so!" With wunderful presence of miend, Don Pedro, th crooel sier, rusht in, dragd out his dauter, with a hasty asied,—

"Don't laf! Akt as if it wuz all riet!"—and, ordering Roderigo up, banisht him from th kingdom with rath and scorn. Tho decidedly shaeken by th faul of th tower upon him, Roderigo defied th oeld jentlman, and refuezd to stur. This dauntles exampl fierd Zara: she aulso defied her sier, and he orderd them boeth to th deepest dunjons of th casl. A stout litl retaener caem in with chaens, and led them away, luuking verry much frietend, and evidently forgeting th speech he aut to hav maed.

Akt thurd wuz th casl haul; and heer Hagar apeerd, having cum to free th luvers and finish Hugo. She heers him cuming, and hieds; sees him put th poeshons into too cups of wien, and bid th timid litl survant "Baer them to th captivs in thaer sels, and tel them I shal cum anon." Th survant taeks Hugo asied to tel him sumthing, and Hagar chaenjes th cups for too others which ar harmles. Ferdinando, th "minyon," carries them away, and Hagar puts bak th cup which hoelds th poizon ment for Roderigo. Hugo, geting thursty after a long worbl, drinks it, loozes his wits, and, after a guud deel of clutching and stamping, fauls flat and dies; whiel Hagar informs him whut she has dun in a song of exqizit power and melody.

This wuz a truly thriling seen, tho sum pursons miet hav thaut that th suden tumbling doun of a qontity of long haer rather mard th efekt of th vilan's deth. He wuz called befor th curten, and with graet propriety apeerd, leeding Hagar, hoos 25 singing wuz considerd mor wunderful than all th rest of th performance put together.

Akt foerth displaed th despaering Roderigo on th pointer of stabing himself, because he has been toeld that Zara has dezurted him. Just as th dager is at his hart, a luvly song is sung under his windo, informing him that Zara is troo, but in daenjer, and he can saev her, if he wil. A kee is throen in, which unloks th dor, and in a spazm of rapcher he teers off his chaens, and rushes away to fiend and rescue his laedy-luv.

Akt fifth oepend with a stormy seen between Zara and Don Pedro. He wishes her to go into a convent, but she wun't heer of it; and, after a tuching apeel, is about to faent, when Roderigo dashes in and demands her hand. Don Pedro refuezes, because he is not rich. 26 Thae shout and jesticuelaet tremendously, but cannot agree, and Roderigo is about to baer away th exausted Zara, when th timid survant enters with a leter and a bag from Hagar, hoo has misteeriusly disapeerd. Th later informs th party that she beqeeths untoeld welth to th yung paer, and an auful doom to Don Pedro, if he doesn't maek them hapy. Th bag is oepend, and several qorts of tin muny shower doun upon th staej, till it is qiet glorified with th gliter. This entierly sofens th "sturn sier": he consents without a murmer, all join in a joyful corus, and th curten fauls upon th luvers neeling to reseev Don Pedro's blesing in atitoods of th moest roemantik graess.

The lovers kneeling to receive Don Pedro's blessing

Toomulchu'us aplauz foloed, but reseevd an unexpekted chek; for th cot-bed, on which th "dres-surkl" wuz bilt, sudenly shut up, and extinguished th enthusiastic audi’enss. Roderigo and Don Pedro floo to th rescue, and all wer taeken out unhurt, tho meny wer speechles with lafter. Th exsietment had hardly subsided, when Hannah apeerd, with "Mrs. March's compliments, and wuud th laedys wauk doun to super."

This wuz a serpriez, eeven to th aktors; and, when thae saw th taebl, thae luukt at wun anuther in rapcherus amaezment. It wuz liek Marmee to get up a litl treat for them; but anything so fien as this wuz unhurd-of sinss th departed daes of plenty. Thaer wuz iess-creem,—akchualy too dishes of it, pink and whiet,—and caek and froot and distracting French bonbons, and, in th midl of th taebl, foer graet bouquets of hot-hous flowers!

It qiet tuuk thaer breth away; and thae staerd furst at th taebl and then at thaer muther, hoo luukt as if she enjoyd it imensly.

"Is it faerys?" askt Amy,

"It's Santa Claus," sed Beth.

"Muther did it"; and Meg smield her sweetest, in spiet of her grae beard and whiet iebrows.

"Ant March had a guud fit, and sent th super," cried Jo, with a suden inspiraeshon.

"All rong. Oeld Mr. Laurence sent it," replied Mrs. March.

"Th Laurence boy's grandfaather! Whut in th wurld put such a thing into his hed? We don't noe him!" exclaemd Meg.

27 "Hannah toeld wun of his survants about yuur brekfast party. He is an od oeld jentlman, but that pleezd him. He knew mi faather, yeers ago; and he sent me a poliet noet this afternoon, saeing he hoept I wuud alow him to expres his frendly feeling tord mi children by sending them a fue trifles in onor of th dae. I cuud not refuez; and so U hav a litl feest at niet to maek up for th bred-and-milk brekfast."

"That boy put it into his hed, I noe he did! He's a capital felo, and I wish we cuud get aqaented. He luuks as if he'd liek to noe us; but he's bashful, and Meg is so prim she wun't let me speek to him when we pas," sed Jo, as th plaets went round, and th iess began to melt out of siet, with "Ohs!" and "Ahs!" of satisfakshon.

"U meen th peepl hoo liv in th big hous next dor, don't U?" askt wun of th gurls. "Mi muther noes oeld Mr. Laurence; but sez he's verry proud, and doesn't liek to mix with his 28 naebors. He keeps his grandson shut up, when he isn't rieding or wauking with his tuetor, and maeks him study verry hard. We invieted him to our party, but he didn't cum. Muther sez he's verry niess, tho he never speeks to us gurls."

"Our cat ran away wunss, and he brought her bak, and we taukt oever th fenss, and wer geting on capitally,—all about criket, and so on,—when he saw Meg cuming, and waukt off. I meen to noe him sum dae; for he needs fun, I'm shuur he duz," sed Jo decidedly.

We talked over the fence

"I liek his maners, and he luuks liek a litl jentlman; so I've no objekshon to yuur noeing him, if a proper oportuenity cums. He brought th flowers himself; and I should hav askt him in, if I had been shuur whut wuz going on upstaers. He luukt so wistful as he went away, heering th frolik, and evidently having nun of his oen."

"It's a mursy U didn't, muther!" laft Jo, luuking at her boots. "But we'll hav anuther plae, sum tiem, that he can see. Perhaps he'll help akt; wouldn't that be joly?"

"I never had such a fien bouquet befor! How prity it is!" And Meg examind her flowers with graet interest.

"Thae ar luvly! But Beth's roezes ar sweeter to me," sed Mrs. March, smeling th haf-ded posy in her belt.

Beth nesld up to her, and whisperd softly, "I wish I cuud send mi bunch to faather. I'm afraed he isn't having such a merry Christmas as we ar."

Tail-piece

III. Th Laurence Boy.

29

Eating apples and crying over the "Heir of Redclyffe"

III.

Th LAURENCE BOY.

"Jo! Jo! whaer ar U?" cried Meg, at th fuut of th garret staers.

"Heer!" anserd a husky vois from abuv; and, runing up, Meg found her sister eating apples and crieing oever th "Aer of Redclyffe," rapt up in a comforter on an oeld three-leged soefa by th suny windo. This wuz Jo's faevorit refuej; and heer she luvd to retier with haf a duzen russets and a niess book, to enjoy th qieet and th soesieety of a pet rat hoo livd neer by, and didn't miend her a partikl. As Meg apeerd, Scrabl whiskt into his hoel. Jo shuuk th teers off her cheeks, and waeted to heer th nues.

30 "Such fun! oenly see! a reguelar noet of invitaeshon from Mrs. Gardiner for to-morro niet!" cried Meg, waeving th precious paeper, and then proceeding to red it, with gurlish deliet.

"'Mrs. Gardiner wuud be hapy to see Mis March and Mis Josephine at a litl danss on Nue-Yeer's Eve.' Marmee is wiling we should go; now whut shal we waer?"

"Whut's th uez of asking that, when U noe we shal waer our poplins, because we haeven't got anything else?" anserd Jo, with her mouth fuul.

"If I oenly had a silk!" sighed Meg. "Muther sez I mae when I'm aeteen, perhaps; but too yeers is an everlasting tiem to waet."

"I'm shuur our pops luuk liek silk, and thae ar niess enough for us. Yuurs is as guud as nue, but I forgot th burn and th teer in mien. Whotever shal I do? th burn shoes badly, and I can't taek any out."

"U must sit still all U can, and keep yuur bak out of siet; th frunt is all riet. I shal hav a nue ribon for mi haer, and Marmee wil lend me her litl pearl pin, and mi nue slipers ar luvly, and mi gluvs wil do, tho thae aren't as niess as I'd liek."

"Mien ar spoilt with lemonaed, and I can't get any nue wuns, so I shal hav to go without," sed Jo, hoo never trubld herself much about dres.

"U must hav gluvs, or I wun't go," cried Meg decidedly. "Gluvs ar mor important than anything else; U can't danss without them, and if U don't I should be so mortified."

"Then I'll stae still. I don't caer much for company dansing; it's no fun to go saeling round; I liek to fli about and cut caepers."

"U can't ask muther for nue wuns, thae ar so expensive, and U ar so careless. She sed, when U spoilt th others, that she shouldn't get U any mor this winter. Can't U maek them do?" askt Meg anxiously.

"I can hoeld them crumpld up in mi hand, so no wun wil noe how staend thae ar; that's all I can do. No! I'll tel U how we can manej—eech waer wun guud wun and carry a bad wun; don't U see?"

31 "Yuur hands ar biger than mien, and U wil strech mi gluv dredfuly," began Meg, hoos gluvs wer a tender pointer with her.

"Then I'll go without. I don't caer whut peepl sae!" cried Jo, taeking up her book.

"U mae hav it, U mae! oenly don't staen it, and do behaev niesly. Don't put yuur hands behind U, or staer, or sae 'Christopher Columbus!' wil U?"

"Don't wury about me; I'll be as prim as I can, and not get into any scraeps, if I can help it. Now go and anser yuur noet, and let me finish this splendid story."

So Meg went away to "accept with thanks," luuk oever her dres, and sing blithely as she did up her wun reeal laess fril; whiel Jo finisht her story, her foer apples, and had a gaem of romps with Scrabl.

On Nue-Yeer's Eve th parlor wuz dezurted, for th too yungger 32 gurls plaed dresing-maeds, and th too elder wer absorbd in th all-important business of "geting redy for th party." Simpl as th toilets wer, thaer wuz a graet deel of runing up and doun, lafing and tauking, and at wun tiem a strong smel of burnt haer pervaeded th hous. Meg wontedw a fue curls about her faess, and Jo undertuuk to pinch th paeperd loks with a paer of hot tongs.

Jo undertook to pinch the papered locks

"Aut thae to smoek liek that?" askt Beth, from her purch on th bed.

"It's th dampnes drieing," replied Jo.

"Whut a qeer smel! it's liek burnt fethers," obzurvd Amy, smoothing her oen prity curls with a superior aer.

"Thaer, now I'll taek off th paepers and U'll see a cloud of litl ringlets," sed Jo, putting doun th tongs.

She did taek off th paepers, but no cloud of ringlets apeerd, for th haer caem with th paepers, and th horrified haer-dreser laed a row (noun) of litl scorcht bundles on th bureau befor her viktim.

"O, o, o! whut hav U dun? I'm spoilt! I can't go! Mi haer, o, mi haer!" waeld Meg, luuking with despaer at th uneeven frizl on her forhed.

"Just mi luk! U shouldn't hav askt me to do it; I aulwaes spoil everything. I'm so sorry, but th tongs wer too hot, and so I've maed a mes," groend puur Jo, regarding th blak pancaeks with teers of regret.

"It isn't spoilt; just frizl it, and tie yuur ribon so th ends cum on yuur forhed a bit, and it wil luuk liek th last fashon. I've seen meny gurls do it so," sed Amy consolingly.

"Survs me riet for trieing to be fien. I wish I'd let mi haer aloen," cried Meg petulantly.

"So do I, it wuz so smooth and prity. But it wil soon gro out again," sed Beth, cuming to kis and cumfort th shorn sheep.

After vaerius leser mis-haps, Meg wuz finisht at last, and by th uenieted exertions of th family Jo's haer wuz got up and her dres on. Thae luukt verry wel in thaer simpl suits,—Meg in silvery drab, with a bloo velvet snood, laess frils, and th pearl pin; Jo in maroon, with a stif, jentlmanly linen collar, and a whiet chrysanthemum or too for her oenly ornament. Eech put on wun niess liet gluv, and carried 33 wun soild wun, and all pronounced th efekt "qiet eezy and fien." Meg's hie-heeld slipers wer verry tight, and hurt her, tho she wuud not oen it, and Jo's nienteen haer-pins all seemd stuk straet into her hed, which wuz not exaktly comfortable; but, deer me, let us be elegant or die!

"Hav a guud tiem, dearies!" sed Mrs. March, as th sisters went daintily doun th wauk. "Don't eat much super, and cum away at eleven, when I send Hannah for U." As th gaet clasht behind them, a vois cried from a windo,—

"Gurls, gurls! hav U boeth got niess poket-hankerchifs?"

"Yes, yes, spandy niess, and Meg has cologne on hers," cried Jo, ading, with a laf, as thae went on, "I do beleev Marmee wuud ask that if we wer all runing away from an urthqaek."

"It is wun of her aristocratic taests, and qiet proper, for a reeal laedy is aulwaes noen by neet boots, gluvs, and hankerchif," replied Meg, hoo had a guud meny litl "aristocratic taests" of her oen.

"Now don't forget to keep th bad bredth out of siet, Jo. Is mi sash riet? and duz mi haer luuk verry bad?" sed Meg, as she turnd from th glas in Mrs. Gardiner's dresing-room, after a prolonged prink.

"I noe I shal forget. If U see me dooing anything rong, just remiend me by a wink, wil U?" returnd Jo, giving her collar a twitch and her hed a hasty brush.

"No, winking isn't laedy-liek; I'll lift mi iebrows if anything is rong, and nod if U ar all riet. Now hoeld yuur shoulders straet, and taek short steps, and don't shaek hands if U ar introduest to any wun: it isn't th thing."

"How do U lurn all th proper waes? I never can. Isn't that muezik gae?"

Mrs. Gardiner greeted them

Doun thae went, feeling a trifle timid, for thae seldom went to partys, and, informal as this litl gathering wuz, it wuz an event to them. Mrs. Gardiner, a stately oeld laedy, greeted them kiendly, and handed them oever to th eldest of her six dauters. Meg knew Sallie, and wuz at her eez verry soon; but Jo, hoo didn't caer much for gurls or gurlish gosip, stuud about, with her bak carefully against 34 th waul, and felt as much out of plaess as a colt in a flower-garden. Haf a duzen joevial lads wer tauking about skaets in anuther part of th room, and she longed to go and join them, for skaeting wuz wun of th joys of her lief. She telegraft her wish to Meg, but th iebrows went up so alarmingly that she dared not stur. No wun caem to tauk to her, and wun by wun th groop neer her dwindled away, till she wuz left aloen. She cuud not roem about and amuez herself, for th burnt bredth wuud sho, so she staerd at peepl rather forlornly till th dansing began. Meg wuz askt at wunss, and th tight slipers tript about so briskly that nun wuud hav guessed th paen thaer wearer suferd smilingly. Jo saw a big red-heded yooth approaching her corner, and feering he ment to engaej her, she slipt into a curtend resess (vurb), intending to peep and enjoy herself in peess. Unforchunatly, anuther bashful purson had choezen th saem refuej; for, as th curten fel behind her, she found herself faess to faess with th "Laurence boy."

Face to face with the Laurence boy

"Deer me, I didn't noe any wun wuz heer!" stamerd Jo, prepaering to bak out as speedily as she had bounst in.

But th boy laft, and sed pleasantly, tho he luukt a litl startld,—

35 "Don't miend me; stae, if U liek."

"Sha'n't I disturb U?"

"Not a bit; I oenly caem heer because I don't noe meny peepl, and felt rather straenj at furst, U noe."

"So did I. Don't go away, pleez, unles U'd rather."

Th boy sat doun again and luukt at his pumps, till Jo sed, trieing to be poliet and eezy,—

"I think I've had th plezher of seeing U befor; U liv neer us, don't U?"

"Next dor"; and he luukt up and laft outriet, for Jo's prim maner wuz rather funy when he rememberd how thae had chated about criket when he brought th cat hoem.

That put Jo at her eez; and she laft too, as she sed, in her hartyest wae,—

"We did hav such a guud tiem oever yuur niess Christmas prezent."

"Grandpa sent it."

36 "But U put it into his hed, didn't U, now?"

"How is yuur cat, Mis March?" askt th boy, trieing to luuk soeber, whiel his blak ies shone with fun.

"Niesly, thank U, Mr. Laurence; but I am not Mis March, I'm oenly Jo," returnd th yung laedy.

"I'm not Mr. Laurence, I'm oenly Laurie."

"Laurie Laurence,—whut an od naem!"

"Mi furst naem is Theodore, but I don't liek it, for th feloes called me Dora, so I maed them sae Laurie insted."

"I haet mi naem, too—so sentimental! I wish every wun wuud sae Jo, insted of Josephine. How did U maek th boys stop calling U Dora?"

"I thrasht 'em."

"I can't thrash Ant March, so I supoez I shal hav to baer it"; and Jo reziend herself with a sie.

"Don't U liek to danss, Mis Jo?" askt Laurie, luuking as if he thaut th naem suited her.

"I liek it wel enough if thaer is plenty of room, and every wun is lievly. In a plaess liek this I'm shuur to upset sumthing, tred on peepl's toes, or do sumthing dredful, so I keep out of mischif, and let Meg sael about. Don't U danss?"

"Sumtiems; U see I've been abraud a guud meny yeers, and haeven't been into company enough yet to noe how U do things heer."

"Abraud!" cried Jo. "O, tel me about it! I luv deerly to heer peepl descrieb thaer travels."

Laurie didn't seem to noe whaer to begin; but Jo's eeger qeschons soon set him going, and he toeld her how he had been at scool in Vevay, whaer th boys never wor hats, and had a fleet of boets on th laek, and for holidae fun went wauking trips about Switzerland with thaer teechers.

"Don't I wish I'd been thaer!" cried Jo. "Did U go to Paris?"

"We spent last winter thaer."

"Can U tauk French?"

"We wer not alowd to speek any thing else at Vevay."

37 "Do sae sum! I can red it, but can't pronounce."

"Quel nom a cette jeune demoiselle en les pantoufles jolis?" sed Laurie guud-naturedly.

"How niesly U do it! Let me see,—U sed, 'Hoo is th yung laedy in th prity slipers,' didn't U?"

"Oui, mademezel."

"It's mi sister Margaret, and U knew it wuz! Do U think she is prity?"

"Yes; she maeks me think of th German gurls, she luuks so fresh and qieet, and danses liek a laedy."

Jo qiet gloed with plezher at this boyish praez of her sister, and stord it up to repeet to Meg. Boeth peept and criticised and chated, till thae felt liek oeld acquaintances. Laurie's bashfulness soon wor off; for Jo's jentlmanly demeanor amuezd and set him at his eez, and Jo wuz her merry self again, because her dres wuz forgoten, and noebody lifted thaer iebrows at her. She liked th "Laurence boy" beter than ever, and tuuk several guud luuks at him, so that she miet descrieb him to th gurls; for thae had no bruthers, verry fue mael cuzins, and boys wer aulmoest unnoen creechers to them.

"Curly blak haer; broun skin; big, blak ies; handsum noez; fien teeth; small hands and feet; tauler than I am; verry poliet, for a boy, and aultogether joly. Wunder how oeld he is?"

It wuz on th tip of Jo's tung to ask; but she chekt herself in tiem, and, with uenuezhual takt, tried to fiend out in a roundabout wae.

"I supoez U ar going to colej soon? I see U peging away at yuur books,—no, I meen studying hard"; and Jo blushed at th dredful "peging" which had escaept her.

Laurie smield, but didn't seem shokt, and anserd, with a shrug,—

"Not for a yeer or too; I wun't go befor seventeen, anyway."

"Aren't U but fifteen?" askt Jo, luuking at th taul lad, hoom she had imajind seventeen aulredy.

"Sixteen, next munth."

"How I wish I wuz going to colej! U don't luuk as if U liked it."

38 "I haet it! Nuthing but griending or skylarking. And I don't liek th wae feloes do eether, in this cuntry."

"Whut do U liek?"

"To liv in Italy, and to enjoy mieself in mi oen wae."

Jo wontedw verry much to ask whut his oen wae wuz; but his blak brows luukt rather thretening as he nit them; so she chaenjd th subjekt by saeing, as her fuut kept tiem, "That's a splendid polka! Whi don't U go and tri it?"

"If U wil cum too," he anserd, with a galant litl boe.

"I can't; for I toeld Meg I wouldn't, because—" Thaer Jo stopt, and luukt undecided whether to tel or to laf.

"Because whut?" askt Laurie cueriusly.

"U wun't tel?"

"Never!"

"Wel, I hav a bad trik of standing befor th fier, and so I burn mi froks, and I scorcht this wun; and, tho it's niesly mended, it shoes, and Meg toeld me to keep still, so no wun wuud see it. U mae laf, if U wont to; it is funy, I noe."

But Laurie didn't laf; he oenly luukt doun a mienuet, and th expreshon of his faess puzzled Jo, when he sed verry jently,—

"Never miend that; I'll tel U how we can manej: thaer's a long haul out thaer, and we can danss grandly, and no wun wil see us. Pleez cum?"

Jo thankt him, and gladly went, wishing she had too neet gluvs, when she saw th niess, pearl-culord wuns her partner wor. Th haul wuz empty, and thae had a grand polka; for Laurie danst wel, and taut her th German step, which delieted Jo, being fuul of swing and spring. When th muezik stopt, thae sat doun on th staers to get thaer breth; and Laurie wuz in th midst of an account of a stoodents' festival at Heidelberg, when Meg apeerd in surch of her sister. She becond, and Jo reluktantly foloed her into a sied-room, whaer she found her on a soefa, hoelding her fuut, and luuking pale.

They sat down on the stairs

"I've spraend mi ankl. That stoopid hie heel turnd, and gaev me a sad rench. It aeks so, I can hardly stand, and I don't noe how I'm ever going to get hoem," she sed, roking to and fro in paen.

39 "I knew U'd hurt yuur feet with thoes sily shoos. I'm sorry. But I don't see whut U can do, exsept get a carrej, or stae heer all niet," anserd Jo, softly rubing th puur ankl as she spoek.

"I can't hav a carrej, without its costing ever so much. I daer sae I can't get wun at all; for moest peepl cum in thaer oen, and it's a long wae to th staebl, and no wun to send."

"I'll go."

"No, indeed! It's past nien, and dark as Egypt. I can't stop heer, for th hous is fuul. Sallie has sum gurls staeing with her. I'll rest till Hannah cums, and then do th best I can."

"I'll ask Laurie; he wil go," sed Jo, luuking releevd as th iedeea ocurd to her.

"Mursy, no! Don't ask or tel any wun. Get me mi rubers, and put thees slipers with our things. I can't danss any mor; 40 but as soon as super is oever, woch for Hannah, and tel me th mienuet she cums."

"Thae ar going out to super now. I'll stae with U; I'd rather."

"No, deer, run along, and bring me sum cofy. I'm so tierd, I can't stur!"

So Meg recliend, with rubers wel hiden, and Jo went blundering away to th diening-room, which she found after going into a china-clozet, and oepening th dor of a room whaer oeld Mr. Gardiner wuz taeking a litl private refreshment. Maeking a dart at th taebl, she secuerd th cofy, which she imeediatly spilt, thaerbi maeking th frunt of her dres as bad as th bak.

"O, deer, whut a blunderbuss I am!" exclaemd Jo, finishing Meg's gluv by scrubing her goun with it.

"Can I help U?" sed a frendly vois; and thaer wuz Laurie, with a fuul cup in wun hand and a plaet of iess in th uther.

"I wuz trieing to get sumthing for Meg, hoo is verry tierd, and sum wun shuuk me; and heer I am, in a niess staet," anserd Jo, glansing dizmaly from th staend scurt to th cofy-culord gluv.

"Too bad! I wuz luuking for sum wun to giv this to. Mae I taek it to yuur sister?"

"O, thank U! I'll sho U whaer she is. I don't ofer to taek it mieself, for I should oenly get into anuther scraep if I did."

Jo led th wae; and, as if uezd to waeting on laedys, Laurie droo up a litl taebl, brought a second instalment of cofy and iess for Jo, and wuz so obliejing that eeven particular Meg pronounced him a "niess boy." Thae had a merry tiem oever th bonbons and motoes, and wer in th midst of a qieet gaem of "Buz," with too or three uther yung peepl hoo had straed in, when Hannah apeerd. Meg forgot her fuut, and roez so qikly that she wuz forst to cach hoeld of Jo, with an exclamation of paen.

"Hush! Don't sae anything," she whisperd, ading aloud, "It's nuthing. I turnd mi fuut a litl, that's all"; and limpt up-staers to put her things on.

Hannah scoelded, Meg cried, and Jo wuz at her wits' end, till she 41 desieded to taek things into her oen hands. Sliping out, she ran doun, and, fiending a survant, askt if he cuud get her a carrej. It happened to be a hierd waeter, hoo knew nuthing about th naeborhuud; and Jo wuz luuking round for help, when Laurie, hoo had hurd whut she sed, caem up, and oferd his grandfaather's carrej, which had just cum for him, he sed.

"It's so eerly! U can't meen to go yet?" began Jo, luuking releevd, but hezitaeting to accept th ofer.

"I aulwaes go eerly,—I do, truly! Pleez let me taek U hoem? It's all on mi wae, U noe, and it raens, thae sae."

That setld it; and, teling him of Meg's mis-hap, Jo graetfuly accepted, and rusht up to bring doun th rest of th party. Hannah haeted raen as much as a cat duz; so she maed no trubl, and thae roeld away in th lugzhuurius cloez carrej, feeling verry festiv and elegant. Laurie went on th box, so Meg cuud keep her fuut up, and th gurls taukt oever thaer party in freedom.

"I had a capital tiem. Did U?" askt Jo, rumpling up her haer, and maeking herself comfortable.

"Yes, till I hurt mieself. Sallie's frend, Annie Moffat, tuuk a fansy to me, and askt me to cum and spend a week with her, when Sallie duz. She is going in th spring, when th opera cums; and it wil be perfectly splendid, if muther oenly lets me go," anserd Meg, cheering up at th thaut.

"I saw U dansing with th red-heded man I ran away from. Wuz he niess?"

"O, verry! His haer is auburn, not red; and he wuz verry poliet, and I had a delicious redowa with him."

"He luukt liek a gras-hoper in a fit, when he did th nue step. Laurie and I couldn't help lafing. Did U heer us?"

"No; but it wuz verry rood. Whut wer U about all that tiem, hiden away thaer?"

Jo toeld her advenchers, and, by th tiem she had finisht, thae wer at hoem. With meny thanks, thae sed "Guud niet," and crept in, hoeping to disturb no wun; but th instant thaer dor creekt, too litl niet-caps bobd up, and too sleepy but eeger voises cried out,—

42 "Tel about th party! tel about th party!"

With whut Meg called "a graet wont of maners," Jo had saevd sum bonbons for th litl gurls; and thae soon subsided, after heering th moest thriling events of th evening.

"I declaer, it reealy seems liek being a fien yung laedy, to cum hoem from th party in a carrej, and sit in mi dresing-goun, with a maed to waet on me," sed Meg, as Jo bound up her fuut with arnica, and brushed her haer.

"I don't beleev fien yung laedys enjoy themselvs a bit mor than we do, in spiet of our burnt haer, oeld gouns, wun gluv apeess, and tight slipers that spraen our ankls when we ar sily enough to waer them." And I think Jo wuz qiet riet.

Tell about the party

IV. Burdens.

43

The kitten stuck like a burr just out of reach

IV.

BURDENS.

"O deer, how hard it duz seem to taek up our paks and go on," sighed Meg, th morning after th party; for, now th holidaes wer oever, th week of merry-maeking did not fit her for going on eezily with th task she never liked.

"I wish it wuz Christmas or Nue-Yeer all th tiem; wouldn't it be fun?" anserd Jo, yauning dizmaly.

"We shouldn't enjoy ourselvs haf so much as we do now. But it duz seem so niess to hav litl supers and bouquets, and go to partys, and driev hoem, and red and rest, and not wurk. It's liek 44 uther peepl, U noe, and I aulwaes envy gurls hoo do such things; I'm so fond of lukshery," sed Meg, trieing to desied which of too shaby gouns wuz th leest shaby.

"Wel, we can't hav it, so don't let us grumbl, but shoulder our bundles and truj along as cheerfuly as Marmee duz. I'm shuur Ant March is a reguelar Oeld Man of th See to me, but I supoez when I've lurnd to carry her without complaening, she wil tumbl off, or get so liet that I sha'n't miend her."

This iedeea tikld Jo's fansy, and put her in guud spirits; but Meg didn't brieten, for her burden, consisting of foer spoilt children, seemd hevyer than ever. She hadn't hart enough eeven to maek herself prity, as uezhual, by putting on a bloo nek-ribon, and dresing her haer in th moest becuming wae.

"Whaer's th uez of luuking niess, when no wun sees me but thoes cros mijets, and no wun caers whether I'm prity or not?" she muterd, shutting her drawer with a jurk. "I shal hav to toil and moil all mi daes, with oenly litl bits of fun now and then, and get oeld and ugly and sour, because I'm puur, and can't enjoy mi lief as uther gurls do. It's a shaem!"

So Meg went doun, waering an injerd luuk, and wasn't at all agreeabl at brekfast-tiem. Every wun seemd rather out of sorts, and inclined to croek. Beth had a hedaek, and lae on th soefa, trieing to cumfort herself with th cat and three kitens; Amy wuz freting because her lesons wer not lurnd, and she couldn't fiend her rubers; Jo wuud whisl and maek a graet raket geting redy; Mrs. March wuz verry busy trieing to finish a leter, which must go at wunss; and Hannah had th grumps, for being up laet didn't suit her.

"Thaer never wuz such a cros family!" cried Jo, loozing her temper when she had upset an inkstand, broeken boeth boot-lacings, and sat doun upon her hat.

"U're th crossest purson in it!" returnd Amy, woshing out th sum, that wuz all rong, with th teers that had faulen on her slate.

"Beth, if U don't keep thees horrid cats doun selar I'll hav them dround," exclaemd Meg anggrily, as she tried to get rid of 45 th kiten, which had scrambld up her bak, and stuk liek a burr just out of reech.

Jo laft, Meg scoelded, Beth implord, and Amy waeld, because she couldn't remember how much nien times twelve wuz.

"Gurls, gurls, do be qieet wun mienuet! I must get this off by th eerly mael, and U driev me distracted with yuur wury," cried Mrs. March, crosing out th thurd spoilt sentenss in her leter.

Thaer wuz a moementaery lul, broeken by Hannah, hoo staukt in, laed too hot turn-overs on th taebl, and staukt out again. Thees turn-overs wer an institooshon; and th gurls called them "mufs," for thae had no others, and found th hot pies verry cumforting to thaer hands on coeld mornings. Hannah never forgot to maek them, no mater how busy or grumpy she miet be, for th wauk wuz long and bleek; th puur things got no uther lunch, and wer seldom hoem befor too.

"Cudl yuur cats, and get oever yuur hedaek, Bethy. Guud-by, Marmee; we ar a set of rascals this morning, but we'll cum hoem reguelar aenjels. Now then, Meg!" and Jo trampt away, feeling that th pilgrims wer not setting out as thae aut to do.

Thae aulwaes luukt bak befor turning th corner, for thaer muther wuz aulwaes at th windo, to nod and smiel, and waev her hand to them. Sumhow it seemd as if thae couldn't hav got thru th dae without that; for, whotever thaer mood miet be, th last glimps of that mutherly faess wuz shuur to affect them liek sunshine.

"If Marmee shuuk her fist insted of kissing her hand to us, it wuud surv us riet, for mor ungraetful reches than we ar wer never seen," cried Jo, taeking a remorsful satisfakshon in th snoey wauk and biter wiend.

"Don't uez such dredful expreshons," sed Meg, from th depths of th vael in which she had shrouded herself liek a nun sik of th wurld.

"I liek guud strong wurds, that meen sumthing," replied Jo, caching her hat as it tuuk a leep off her hed, preparatory to flieing away aultogether.

"Call yuurself any naems U liek; but I am neether a rascal nor a rech, and I don't chooz to be called so."

46 "U're a blieted being, and decidedly cros to-dae because U can't sit in th lap of lukshery all th tiem. Puur deer, just waet till I maek mi forchun, and U shal revel in carrejs and iess-creem and hie-heeld slipers and posies and red-heded boys to danss with."

"How ridicuelus U ar, Jo!" but Meg laft at th nonsenss, and felt beter in spiet of herself.

"Luky for U I am; for if I put on crusht aers, and tried to be dizmal, as U do, we should be in a niess staet. Thank guudnes, I can aulwaes fiend sumthing funy to keep me up. Don't croek any mor, but cum hoem joly, thaer's a deer."

Jo gaev her sister an encurejing pat on th shoulder as thae parted for th dae, eech going a diferent wae, eech huging her litl worm turn-oever, and eech trieing to be cheerful in spiet of wintry wether, hard wurk, and th unsatisfied deziers of plezher-luving yooth.

When Mr. March lost his property in trieing to help an unforchunat frend, th too oeldest gurls begd to be alowd to do sumthing tord thaer oen suport, at leest. Beleeving that thae cuud not begin too eerly to cultivaet enerjy, industry, and independenss, thaer paerents consented, and boeth fel to wurk with th harty guud-wil which in spiet of all obstakls, is shuur to succeed at last. Margaret found a plaess as nursery guvernes, and felt rich with her small salary. As she sed, she wuz "fond of lukshery," and her cheef trubl wuz poverty. She found it harder to baer than th others, because she cuud remember a tiem when hoem wuz buetiful, lief fuul of eez and plezher, and wont of any kiend unnoen. She tried not to be envious or discontented, but it wuz verry nacheral that th yung gurl should long for prity things, gae frends, accomplishments, and a hapy lief. At th Kings' she daily saw all she wontedw, for th children's oelder sisters wer just out, and Meg caut freeqent glimpses of dainty baul-dreses and bouquets, hurd lievly gosip about theeaters, conserts, sleighing partys, and merry-maekings of all kiends, and saw muny lavisht on trifles which wuud hav been so precious to her. Puur Meg seldom complaend, but a senss of injustis maed her feel biter tord every wun sumtiems, for she had not yet lurnd 47 to noe how rich she wuz in th blessings which aloen can maek lief hapy.

Jo happened to suit Ant March, hoo wuz laem, and needed an aktiv purson to waet upon her. Th chieldles oeld laedy had oferd to adopt wun of th gurls when th trubls caem, and wuz much ofended because her ofer wuz decliend. Uther frends toeld th Marches that thae had lost all chanss of being rememberd in th rich oeld laedy's wil; but th unwurldly Marches oenly sed,—

"We can't giv up our gurls for a duzen forchuns. Rich or puur, we wil keep together and be hapy in wun anuther."

Th oeld laedy wouldn't speek to them for a tiem, but hapening to meet Jo at a frend's, sumthing in her comikal faess and blunt maners struk th oeld laedy's fansy, and she propoezd to taek her for a companyon. This did not suit Jo at all; but she accepted th plaess sinss nuthing beter apeerd, and, to every wun's serpriez, got on remarkably wel with her irasibl relativ. Thaer wuz an ocaezhonal tempest, and wunss Jo had marcht hoem, declaering she couldn't baer it any longer; but Ant March aulwaes cleerd up qikly, and sent for her bak again with such urjensy that she cuud not refuez, for in her hart she rather liked th pepery oeld laedy.

I suspekt that th reeal atrakshon wuz a larj liebraery of fien books, which wuz left to dust and spieders sinss Unkl March died. Jo rememberd th kiend oeld jentlman, hoo uezd to let her build raelroeds and bridges with his big dikshonaerys, tel her storys about th qeer pikchers in his Latin books, and bie her cards of jinjerbred whenever he met her in th street. Th dim, dusty room, with th busts staering doun from th taul book-caeses, th cosy chaers, th gloebs, and, best of all, th wildernes of books, in which she cuud waander whaer she liked, maed th liebraery a reejon of bliss to her. Th moement Ant March tuuk her nap, or wuz busy with company, Jo huryd to this qieet plaess, and, curling herself up in th eezy-chaer, devourd poetry, roemanss, history, travels, and pikchers, liek a reguelar book-wurm. But, liek all hapynes, it did not last long; for as shuur as she had just reached th hart of th story, th sweetest vurss of th song, or th moest perilous advencher of her traveller, a shril vois called, "Josy-phine! Josy-phine!" and she had to leev her 48 paradise to wiend yarn, wosh th poodel, or red Belsham's Essays by th our together.

Curling herself up in the big chair

Jo's ambishon wuz to do sumthing verry splendid; whut it wuz she had no iedeea, as yet, but left it for tiem to tel her; and, meenwhiel, found her graetest aflikshon in th fakt that she couldn't red, run, and ried as much as she liked. A qik temper, sharp tung, and restles spirit wer aulwaes geting her into scraeps, and her lief wuz a seerys of ups and douns, which wer boeth comik and pathetik. But th traening she reseevd at Ant March's wuz just whut she needed; and th thaut that she wuz dooing sumthing to suport herself maed her hapy, in spiet of th perpechual "Josy-phine!"

Beth wuz too bashful to go to scool; it had been tried, but she suferd so much that it wuz given up, and she did her lesons at 49 hoem, with her faather. Eeven when he went away, and her muther wuz called to devoet her skil and enerjy to Soeljers' Aed Soesieetys, Beth went faethfuly on by herself, and did th best she cuud. She wuz a housewifely litl creecher, and helpt Hannah keep hoem neet and comfortable for th wurkers, never thinking of any reword but to be luvd. Long, qieet daes she spent, not loenly nor iedl, for her litl wurld wuz peepld with imajinarry frends, and she wuz by naechuur a busy bee. Thaer wer six dols to be taeken up and drest every morning, for Beth wuz a chield still, and luvd her pets as wel as ever. Not wun hoel or handsum wun amung them; all wer outcasts till Beth tuuk them in; for, when her sisters outgroo thees iedols, thae past to her, because Amy wuud hav nuthing oeld or ugly. Beth cherrisht them all th mor tenderly for that verry reezon, and set up a hospital for infurm dols. No pins wer ever stuk into thaer coton vietals; no harsh wurds or bloes wer ever given them; no neglekt ever saddened th hart of th moest repulsiv: but all wer fed and cloethd, nurst and caressed, with an affection which never faeld. Wun forlorn fragment of dollanity had belongd to Jo; and, having led a tempestuous lief, wuz left a rek in th rag-bag, from which dreery poorhouse it wuz rescued by Beth, and taeken to her refuej. Having no top to its hed, she tied on a neet litl cap, and, as boeth arms and legs wer gon, she hid thees defishensys by foelding it in a blanket, and devoeting her best bed to this cronik invalid. If any wun had noen th caer lavisht on that doly, I think it wuud hav tucht thaer harts, eeven whiel thae laft. She brought it bits of bouquets; she red to it, tuuk it out to breeth th aer, hiden under her coet; she sung it lullabys, and never went to bed without kissing its durty faess, and whispering tenderly, "I hoep U'll hav a guud niet, mi puur deer."

Beth had her trubls as wel as th others; and not being an aenjel, but a verry hueman litl gurl, she ofen "wept a litl weep," as Jo sed, because she couldn't taek muezik lesons and hav a fien piano. She luvd muezik so deerly, tried so hard to lurn, and practised away so paeshently at th jingling oeld instrument, that it did seem as if sum wun (not to hint Ant March) aut to help her. Noebody did, however, and noebody saw Beth wiep th teers off th yelo 50 kees, that wouldn't keep in tuen, when she wuz all aloen. She sang liek a litl lark about her wurk, never wuz too tierd to plae for Marmee and th gurls, and dae after dae sed hoepfuly to herself, "I noe I'll get mi muezik sum tiem, if I'm guud."

Thaer ar meny Beths in th wurld, shi and qieet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfuly that no wun sees th sacrifieses till th litl criket on th harth stops churping, and th sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leeving silence and shado behind.

If anybody had askt Amy whut th graetest trieal of her lief wuz, she wuud hav anserd at wunss, "Mi noez." When she wuz a baeby, Jo had accidentally dropt her into th coel-hod, and Amy insisted that th faul had rooind her noez forever. It wuz not big, nor red, liek puur "Petrea's"; it wuz oenly rather flat, and all th pinching in th wurld cuud not giv it an aristocratic pointer. No wun miended it but herself, and it wuz dooing its best to gro, but Amy felt deeply th wont of a Grecian noez, and droo hoel sheets of handsum wuns to consoel herself.

"Litl Raphael," as her sisters called her, had a desieded talent for drawing, and wuz never so hapy as when copying flowers, deziening faerys, or ilustraeting storys with qeer specimens of art. Her teechers complaend that, insted of dooing her sums, she cuverd her slate with animals; th blank paejes of her atlas wer uezd to copy maps on; and caricatures of th moest loodicrus descripshon caem fluttering out of all her books at unluky moements. She got thru her lesons as wel as she cuud, and manejd to escaep reprimands by being a model of deportment. She wuz a graet faevorit with her maets, being guud-temperd, and possessing th hapy art of pleezing without efort. Her litl aers and graeses wer much admierd, so wer her accomplishments; for besied her drawing, she cuud plae twelve tuens, croeshae, and red French without mispronounsing mor than too thurds of th wurds. She had a plaentiv wae of saeing, "When papa wuz rich we did so-and-so," which wuz verry tuching; and her long wurds wer considerd "perfectly elegant" by th gurls.

Amy wuz in a faer wae to be spoilt; for every wun peted her, and 51 her small vanitys and selfishnesses wer groeing niesly. Wun thing, however, rather qencht th vanitys; she had to waer her cuzin's cloeths. Now Florence's maama hadn't a partikl of taest, and Amy suferd deeply at having to waer a red insted of a bloo bonnet, unbecuming gouns, and fusy aprons that did not fit. Everything wuz guud, wel maed, and litl worn; but Amy's artistik ies wer much aflikted, especially this winter, when her scool dres wuz a dul purpl, with yelo dots, and no trimming.

"Mi oenly cumfort," she sed to Meg, with teers in her ies, "is, that muther don't taek tuks in mi dreses whenever I'm nauty, as Maria Parks' muther duz. Mi deer, it's reealy dredful; for sumtiems she is so bad, her frok is up to her nees, and she can't cum to scool. When I think of this deggerredation, I feel that I can baer eeven mi flat noez and purpl goun, with yelo ski-rokets on it."

Meg wuz Amy's confidant and monitor, and, by sum straenj atrakshon of opozits, Jo wuz jentl Beth's. To Jo aloen did th shi chield tel her thoughts; and oever her big, harum-scarum sister, Beth unconshusly exercised mor inflooenss than any wun in th family. Th too oelder gurls wer a graet deel to wun anuther, but eech tuuk wun of th yungger into her keeping, and wocht oever her in her oen wae; "plaeing muther" thae called it, and put thaer sisters in th plaeses of discarded dols, with th maturnal instinkt of litl wimen.

"Has anybody got anything to tel? It's been such a dizmal dae I'm reealy dieing for sum amuezment," sed Meg, as thae sat soeing together that evening.

"I had a qeer tiem with ant to-dae, and, as I got th best of it, I'll tel U about it," began Jo, hoo deerly luvd to tel storys. "I wuz reeding that everlasting Belsham, and droning away as I aulwaes do, for ant soon drops off, and then I taek out sum niess book, and red liek fuery till she waeks up. I akchualy maed mieself sleepy; and, befor she began to nod, I gaev such a gaep that she askt me whut I ment by oepening mi mouth wied enough to taek th hoel book in at wunss.

Reading that everlasting Belsham

"'I wish I cuud, and be dun with it,' sed I, trieing not to be sausy.

52 "Then she gaev me a long lecture on mi sins, and toeld me to sit and think them oever whiel she just 'lost' herself for a moement. She never fiends herself verry soon; so th mienuet her cap began to bob, liek a top-hevy dahlia, I whipt th 'Viker of Wakefield' out of mi poket, and red away, with wun ie on him, and wun on ant. I'd just got to whaer thae all tumbld into th wauter, when I forgot, and laft out loud. Ant woek up; and, being mor guud-naecherd after her nap, toeld me to red a bit, and sho whut frivolus wurk I prefurd to th wurthy and instruktiv Belsham. I did mi verry best, and she liked it, tho she oenly sed,—

"'I don't understand whut it's all about. Go bak and begin it, chield.'

"Bak I went, and maed th Primroezes as interesting as ever I cuud. Wunss I wuz wiked enough to stop in a thriling plaess, and sae meekly, 'I'm afraed it tires U, maa'am; sha'n't I stop now?'

"She caut up her niting, which had dropt out of her hands, gaev me a sharp luuk thru her specs, and sed, in her short wae,—

"'Finish th chapter, and don't be impurtinent, mis.'"

53 "Did she oen she liked it?" askt Meg.

"O, bles U, no! but she let oeld Belsham rest; and, when I ran bak after mi gluvs this afternoon, thaer she wuz, so hard at th Viker that she didn't heer me laf as I danst a jig in th haul, because of th guud tiem cuming. Whut a plezant lief she miet hav, if she oenly choez. I don't envy her much, in spiet of her muny, for after all rich peepl hav about as meny wurys as puur wuns, I think," aded Jo.

"That remiends me," sed Meg, "that I've got sumthing to tel. It isn't funy, liek Jo's story, but I thaut about it a guud deel as I caem hoem. At th Kings to-dae I found everybody in a flury, and wun of th children sed that her oeldest bruther had dun sumthing dredful, and papa had sent him away. I hurd Mrs. King crieing and Mr. King tauking verry loud, and Graess and Ellen turnd away thaer faeses when thae past me, so I shouldn't see how red thaer ies wer. I didn't ask any qeschons, of corss; but I felt so sorry for them, and wuz rather glad I hadn't any wield bruthers to do wiked things and disgraess th family."

"I think being disgraest in scool is a graet deel triinger than anything bad boys can do," sed Amy, shaeking her hed, as if her expeeri’enss of lief had been a deep wun. "Susie Perkins caem to scool to-dae with a luvly red carnelian ring; I wontedw it dredfuly, and wisht I wuz her with all mi miet. Wel, she droo a pikcher of Mr. Davis, with a monstrus noez and a hump, and th wurds, 'Yung laedys, mi ie is upon U!' cuming out of his mouth in a balloon thing. We wer lafing oever it, when all of a suden his ie wuz on us, and he orderd Susie to bring up her slate. She wuz parrylized with friet, but she went, and o, whut do U think he did? He tuuk her by th eer, th eer! just fansy how horrid!—and led her to th resitaeshon platform, and maed her stand thaer haf an our, hoelding that slate so every wun cuud see."

He took her by the ear! by the ear!

"Didn't th gurls laf at th pikcher?" askt Jo, hoo relisht th scraep.

"Laf? Not wun! Thae sat as still as miess; and Susie cried qorts, I noe she did. I didn't envy her then; for I felt that milyons of carnelian rings wouldn't hav maed me hapy, after that. I 54 never, never should hav got oever such a agonizing mortificaeshon." And Amy went on with her wurk, in th proud conshusnes of vurchoo, and th successful uteranss of too long wurds in a breth.

"I saw sumthing that I liked this morning, and I ment to tel it at diner, but I forgot," sed Beth, putting Jo's topsy-turvy basket in order as she taukt. "When I went to get sum oisters for Hannah, Mr. Laurence wuz in th fish-shop; but he didn't see me, for I kept behind a barrel, and he wuz busy with Mr. Cuter, th fish-man. A puur wuuman caem in, with a pael and a mop, and askt Mr. Cuter if he wuud let her do sum scrubing for a bit of fish, because she hadn't any diner for her children, and had been disapointed of a dae's wurk. Mr. Cuter wuz in a hurry, and sed 'No,' rather crosly; so she wuz going away, luuking hunggry and sorry, when Mr. Laurence huukt up a big fish with th cruuked end of his caen, and held it out to her. She wuz so glad and serpriezd, she tuuk it riet in her arms, and thankt him oever and oever. He toeld her to 'go along and 55 cuuk it,' and she huryd off, so hapy! Wasn't it guud of him? O, she did luuk so funy, huging th big, slippery fish, and hoeping Mr. Laurence's bed in heven wuud be 'aisy.'"

Mr. Laurence hooked up a big fish

When thae had laft at Beth's story, thae askt thaer muther for wun; and, after a moement's thaut, she sed soeberly,—

"As I sat cuting out bloo flanel jakets to-dae, at th rooms, I felt verry anxious about faather, and thaut how loenly and helples we should be, if anything happened to him. It wuz not a wiez thing to do; but I kept on wurying, till an oeld man caem in, with an order for sum cloeths. He sat doun neer me, and I began to tauk to him; for he luukt puur and tierd and anxious.

"'Hav U suns in th army?' I askt; for th noet he brought wuz not to me.

56 "'Yes, maa'am. I had foer, but too wer kild, wun is a prizoner, and I'm going to th uther, hoo is verry sik in a Washington hospital,' he anserd qieetly.

"'U hav dun a graet deel for yuur cuntry, sur,' I sed, feeling respekt now, insted of pity.

"'Not a miet mor than I aut, maa'am. I'd go mieself, if I wuz any uez; as I ain't, I giv mi boys, and giv 'em free.'

"He spoek so cheerfuly, luukt so sincere, and seemd so glad to giv his all, that I wuz ashamed of mieself. I'd given wun man, and thaut it too much, whiel he gaev foer, without grujing them. I had all mi gurls to cumfort me at hoem; and his last sun wuz waeting, miels away, to sae 'guud by' to him, perhaps! I felt so rich, so hapy, thinking of mi blessings, that I maed him a niess bundle, gaev him sum muny, and thankt him hartily for th leson he had taut me."

"Tel anuther story, muther,—wun with a moral to it, liek this. I liek to think about them afterwards, if thae ar reeal, and not too preechy," sed Jo, after a mienuet's silence.

Mrs. March smield, and began at wunss; for she had toeld storys to this litl audi’enss for meny yeers, and knew how to pleez them.

"Wunss upon a tiem, thaer wer foer gurls, hoo had enough to eat and drink and waer, a guud meny cumforts and plezhers, kiend frends and paerents, hoo luvd them deerly, and yet thae wer not contented." (Heer th liseners stoel sli luuks at wun anuther, and began to soe dilijently.) "Thees gurls wer anxious to be guud, and maed meny exselent rezolooshons; but thae did not keep them verry wel, and wer constantly saeing, 'If we oenly had this,' or 'If we cuud oenly do that,' qiet forgeting how much thae aulredy had, and how meny plezant things thae akchualy cuud do. So thae askt an oeld wuuman whut spel thae cuud uez to maek them hapy, and she sed, 'When U feel discontented, think oever yuur blessings, and be graetful.'" (Heer Jo luukt up qikly, as if about to speek, but chaenjd her miend, seeing that th story wuz not dun yet.)

"Being sensibl gurls, thae desieded to tri her advice, and soon wer serpriezd to see how wel off thae wer. Wun discuverd that muny couldn't keep shaem and sorro out of rich peepl's houses; anuther 57 that, tho she wuz puur, she wuz a graet deel hapyer, with her yooth, helth, and guud spirits, than a surten fretful, feebl oeld laedy, hoo couldn't enjoy her cumforts; a thurd that, disagreeabl as it wuz to help get diner, it wuz harder still to hav to go beging for it; and th foerth, that eeven carnelian rings wer not so valueable as guud behaevyor. So thae agreed to stop complaening, to enjoy th blessings aulredy possessed, and tri to dezurv them, lest thae should be taeken away entierly, insted of increest; and I beleev thae wer never disapointed, or sorry that thae tuuk th oeld wuuman's advice."

"Now, Marmee, that is verry cuning of U to turn our oen storys against us, and giv us a surmon insted of a roemanss!" cried Meg.

"I liek that kiend of surmon. It's th sort faather uezd to tel us," sed Beth thautfuly, putting th needls straet on Jo's cuushon.

"I don't complaen neer as much as th others do, and I shal be mor careful than ever now; for I've had worning from Susie's dounfaul," sed Amy moraly.

"We needed that leson, and we wun't forget it. If we do, U just sae to us, as oeld Chloe did in 'Unkl Tom,' 'Tink ob yer marcies, chillen! tink ob yer marcies!'" aded Jo, hoo cuud not, for th lief of her, help geting a morsel of fun out of th litl surmon, tho she tuuk it to hart as much as any of them.

Tail-piece

V. Being Naeborly.

58

V.

BEING Naeborly.

Being Neighborly

"Whut in th wurld ar U going to do now, Jo?" askt Meg, wun snoey afternoon, as her sister caem tramping thru th haul, in ruber boots, oeld sak and huud, with a broom in wun hand and a shuvel in th uther.

"Going out for exercise," anserd Jo, with a mischivus twinkle in her ies.

"I should think too long wauks this morning wuud hav been enough! It's coeld and dul out; and I advise U to stae, worm and dri, by th fier, as I do," sed Meg, with a shiver.

"Never taek advice! Can't keep still all dae, and, not being a puusycat, I don't liek to doez by th fier. I liek advenchers, and I'm going to fiend sum."

Meg went bak to toest her feet and red "Ivanhoe"; and Jo began to dig paths with graet enerjy. Th sno wuz liet, and with her broom she soon swept a path all round th garden, for Beth to wauk in when th sun caem out; and th invalid dols needed aer. Now, th garden separaeted th Marches' hous from that of Mr. Laurence. Boeth stuud in a suburb of th sity, which wuz still cuntry-liek, with groevs and launs, larj gardens, and qieet streets. A loe 59 hej parted th too estates. On wun sied wuz an oeld, broun hous, luuking rather baer and shaby, robd of th viens that in sumer cuverd its wauls, and th flowers which then serounded it. On th uther sied wuz a stately stoen manshon, plainly betokening every sort of cumfort and lukshery, from th big coech-hous and wel-kept grounds to th conservatory and th glimpses of luvly things wun caut between th rich curtens. Yet it seemd a loenly, liefles sort of hous; for no children frolikt on th laun, no mutherly faess ever smield at th windoes, and fue peepl went in and out, exsept th oeld jentlman and his grandson.

To Jo's lievly fansy, this fien hous seemd a kiend of enchanted palis, fuul of splendors and deliets, which no wun enjoyd. She had long wontedw to behoeld thees hiden glorys, and to noe th "Laurence boy," hoo luukt as if he wuud liek to be noen, if he oenly knew how to begin. Sinss th party, she had been mor eeger than ever, and had pland meny waes of maeking frends with him; but he had not been seen laetly, and Jo began to think he had gon away, when she wun dae spied a broun faess at an uper windo, luuking wistfuly doun into thaer garden, whaer Beth and Amy wer sno-balling wun anuther.

"That boy is sufering for soesieety and fun," she sed to herself. "His grandpa duz not noe whut's guud for him, and keeps him shut up all aloen. He needs a party of joly boys to plae with, or sumbody yung and lievly. I've a graet miend to go oever and tel th oeld jentlman so!"

Th iedeea amuezd Jo, hoo liked to do daring things, and wuz aulwaes scandalizing Meg by her qeer performances. Th plan of "going oever" wuz not forgoten; and when th snoey afternoon caem, Jo rezolvd to tri whut cuud be dun. She saw Mr. Laurence driev off, and then sallied out to dig her wae doun to th hej, whaer she paused, and tuuk a survae. All qieet,—curtens doun at th loeer windoes; survants out of siet, and nuthing hueman vizibl but a curly blak hed leening on a thin hand at th uper windo.

"Thaer he is," thaut Jo, "puur boy! all aloen and sik this dizmal dae. It's a shaem! I'll tos up a sno-baul, and maek him 60 luuk out, and then sae a kiend wurd to him."

Up went a handfuul of soft sno, and th hed turnd at wunss, shoeing a faess which lost its listles luuk in a mienuet, as th big ies brietend and th mouth began to smiel. Jo noded and laft, and flurisht her broom as she called out,—

"How do U do? Ar U sik?"

Laurie opened the window

Laurie oepend th windo, and croekt out as horsly as a raeven,—

"Beter, thank U. I've had a bad coeld, and been shut up a week."

"I'm sorry. Whut do U amuez yuurself with?"

"Nuthing; it's as dul as tooms up heer."

"Don't U red?"

"Not much; thae wun't let me."

"Can't sumbody red to U?"

"Grandpa duz, sumtiems; but mi books don't interest him, and I haet to ask Brooke all th tiem."

"Hav sum wun cum and see U, then."

61 "Thaer isn't any wun I'd liek to see. Boys maek such a row (noun), and mi hed is week."

"Isn't thaer sum niess gurl hoo'd red and amuez U? Gurls ar qieet, and liek to plae nurss."

"Don't noe any."

"U noe us," began Jo, then laft, and stopt.

"So I do! Wil U cum, pleez?" cried Laurie.

"I'm not qieet and niess; but I'll cum, if muther wil let me. I'll go ask her. Shut that windo, liek a guud boy, and waet till I cum."

With that, Jo shouldered her broom and marcht into th hous, wundering whut thae wuud all sae to her. Laurie wuz in a flutter of exsietment at th iedeea of having company, and floo about to get redy; for, as Mrs. March sed, he wuz "a litl jentlman," and did onor to th cuming guessed by brushing his curly pate, putting on a fresh collar, and trieing to tidy up th room, which, in spiet of haf a duzen survants, wuz anything but neet. Prezently thaer caem a loud ring, then a desieded vois, asking for "Mr. Laurie," and a serpriezd-luuking survant caem runing up to anounss a yung laedy.

"All riet, sho her up, it's Mis Jo," sed Laurie, going to th dor of his litl parlor to meet Jo, hoo apeerd, luuking roezy and kiend and qiet at her eez, with a cuverd dish in wun hand and Beth's three kitens in th uther.

"Heer I am, bag and bagej," she sed briskly. "Muther sent her luv, and wuz glad if I cuud do anything for U. Meg wontedw me to bring sum of her blanc-maenj; she maeks it verry niesly, and Beth thaut her cats wuud be cumforting. I knew U'd laf at them, but I couldn't refuez, she wuz so anxious to do sumthing."

It so happened that Beth's funy loen wuz just th thing; for, in lafing oever th kits, Laurie forgot his bashfulness, and groo soeshabl at wunss.

"That luuks too prity to eat," he sed, smieling with plezher, as Jo uncovered th dish, and shoed th blanc-maenj, serounded by a garland of green leevs, and th scarlet flowers of Amy's pet jeraenium.

62 "It isn't anything, oenly thae all felt kiendly, and wontedw to sho it. Tel th gurl to put it away for yuur tee: it's so simpl, U can eat it; and, being soft, it wil slip doun without hurting yuur sor throet. Whut a cosy room this is!"

"It miet be if it wuz kept niess; but th maeds ar laezy, and I don't noe how to maek them miend. It wurys me, tho."

"I'll riet it up in too minits; for it oenly needs to hav th harth brushed, so,—and th things maed straet on th mantel-peess so,—and th books put heer, and th botls thaer, and yuur soefa turnd from th liet, and th piloes plumped up a bit. Now, then, U're fixed."

And so he wuz; for, as she laft and taukt, Jo had whiskt things into plaess, and given qiet a diferent aer to th room. Laurie wocht her in respektful silence; and when she becond him to his soefa, he sat doun with a sie of satisfakshon, saeing graetfuly,—

"How kiend U ar! Yes, that's whut it wontedw. Now pleez taek th big chaer, and let me do sumthing to amuez mi company."

"No; I caem to amuez U. Shal I red aloud?" and Jo luukt affectionately tord sum invieting books neer by.

"Thank U; I've red all thoes, and if U don't miend, I'd rather tauk," anserd Laurie.

"Not a bit; I'll tauk all dae if U'll oenly set me going. Beth sez I never noe when to stop."

"Is Beth th roezy wun, hoo staes at hoem a guud deel, and sumtiems goes out with a litl basket?" askt Laurie, with interest.

"Yes, that's Beth; she's mi gurl, and a reguelar guud wun she is, too."

"Th prity wun is Meg, and th curly-haired wun is Amy, I beleev?"

"How did U fiend that out?"

Laurie culord up, but anserd frankly, "Whi, U see, I ofen heer U calling to wun anuther, and when I'm aloen up heer, I can't help luuking oever at yuur hous, U aulwaes seem to be having such guud times. I beg yuur pardon for being so rood, but sumtiems U forget to put doun th curten at th windo whaer th flowers ar; and when th lamps ar lieted, it's liek luuking at a pikcher to 63 see th fier, and U all round th taebl with yuur muther; her faess is riet opozit, and it luuks so sweet behind th flowers, I can't help woching it. I haeven't got any muther, U noe;" and Laurie poekt th fier to hied a litl twitching of th lips that he cuud not controel.

Th solitaery, hunggry luuk in his ies went straet to Jo's worm hart. She had been so simply taut that thaer wuz no nonsenss in her hed, and at fifteen she wuz as inosent and frank as any chield. Laurie wuz sik and loenly; and, feeling how rich she wuz in hoem-luv and hapynes, she gladly tried to shaer it with him. Her faess wuz verry frendly and her sharp vois unuezhualy jentl as she sed,—

"We'll never draw that curten any mor, and I giv U leev to luuk as much as U liek. I just wish, tho, insted of peeping, U'd cum oever and see us. Muther is so splendid, she'd do U heeps of guud, and Beth wuud sing to U if I begd her to, and Amy wuud danss; Meg and I wuud maek U laf oever our funy staej propertys, and we'd hav joly times. Wouldn't yuur grandpa let U?"

"I think he wuud, if yuur muther askt him. He's verry kiend, tho he duz not luuk so; and he lets me do whut I liek, prity much, oenly he's afraed I miet be a bother to straenjers," began Laurie, brietening mor and mor.

"We ar not straenjers, we ar naebors, and U needn't think U'd be a bother. We wont to noe U, and I've been trieing to do it this ever so long. We haeven't been heer a graet whiel, U noe, but we hav got aqaented with all our naebors but U."

"U see grandpa lievs amung his books, and doesn't miend much whut happens outsied. Mr. Brooke, mi tuetor, doesn't stae heer, U noe, and I hav no wun to go about with me, so I just stop at hoem and get on as I can."

"That's bad. U aut to maek an efort, and go viziting everywhaer U ar askt; then U'll hav plenty of frends, and plezant plaeses to go to. Never miend being bashful; it wun't last long if U keep going."

Laurie turnd red again, but wasn't ofended at being accused of 64 bashfulness; for thaer wuz so much guud-wil in Jo, it wuz imposibl not to taek her blunt speeches as kiendly as thae wer ment.

"Do U liek yuur scool?" askt th boy, chaenjing th subjekt, after a litl pause, duuring which he staerd at th fier, and Jo luukt about her, wel pleezd.

"Don't go to scool; I'm a business man—gurl, I meen. I go to waet on mi graet-ant, and a deer, cros oeld soel she is, too," anserd Jo.

Laurie oepend his mouth to ask anuther qeschon; but remembering just in tiem that it wasn't maners to maek too meny inqierys into peepl's affairs, he shut it again, and luukt uncumfortabl. Jo liked his guud breeding, and didn't miend having a laf at Ant March, so she gaev him a lievly descripshon of th fijety oeld laedy, her fat poodel, th parrot that taukt Spanish, and th liebraery whaer she reveld. Laurie enjoyd that imensly; and when she toeld about th prim oeld jentlman hoo caem wunss to woo Ant March, and, in th midl of a fien speech, how Poel had tweaked his wig off to his graet dismae, th boy lae bak and laft till th teers ran doun his cheeks, and a maed popt her hed in to see whut wuz th mater.

Poll tweaked off his wig

"O! that duz me no end of guud. Tel on, pleez," he sed, taeking his faess out of th soefa-cuushon, red and shiening with merriment.

65 Much elaeted with her success, Jo did "tel on," all about thaer plaes and plans, thaer hoeps and feers for faather, and th moest interesting events of th litl wurld in which th sisters livd. Then thae got to tauking about books; and to Jo's deliet, she found that Laurie luvd them as wel as she did, and had red eeven mor than herself.

"If U liek them so much, cum doun and see ours. Grandpa is out, so U needn't be afraed," sed Laurie, geting up.

"I'm not afraed of anything," returnd Jo, with a tos of th hed.

"I don't beleev U ar!" exclaemd th boy, luuking at her with much admeraeshon, tho he privately thaut she wuud hav guud reezon to be a trifle afraed of th oeld jentlman, if she met him in sum of his moods.

Th atmosphere of th hoel hous being sumer-liek, Laurie led th wae from room to room, leting Jo stop to examine whotever struk her fansy; and so at last thae caem to th liebraery, whaer she clapt her hands, and pranst, as she aulwaes did when especially delieted. It wuz liend with books, and thaer wer pikchers and stachoos, and distracting litl cabinets fuul of coins and cueriositys, and sleepy-holo chaers, and qeer taebls, and bronzes; and, best of all, a graet oepen fierplaess, with qaent tiels all round it.

"Whut richnes!" sighed Jo, sinking into th depth of a velvet chaer, and gaezing about her with an aer of intenss satisfakshon. "Theodore Laurence, U aut to be th hapyest boy in th wurld," she aded impresivly.

"A felo can't liv on books," sed Laurie, shaeking his hed, as he purcht on a taebl opozit.

Befor he cuud sae mor, a bel rung, and Jo floo up, exclaeming with alarm, "Mursy me! it's yuur grandpa!"

"Wel, whut if it is? U ar not afraed of anything, U noe," returnd th boy, luuking wiked.

"I think I am a litl bit afraed of him, but I don't noe whi I should be. Marmee sed I miet cum, and I don't think U're any th wurss for it," sed Jo, compoezing herself, tho she kept her ies on th dor.

"I'm a graet deel beter for it, and ever so much obliejd. I'm 66 oenly afraed U ar verry tierd tauking to me; it wuz so plezant, I couldn't baer to stop," sed Laurie graetfuly.

"Th doktor to see U, sur," and th maed becond as she spoek.

"Wuud U miend if I left U for a mienuet? I supoez I must see him," sed Laurie.

"Don't miend me. I'm as hapy as a criket heer," anserd Jo.

Laurie went away, and his guessed amuezd herself in her oen wae. She wuz standing befor a fien portrait of th oeld jentlman, when th dor oepend again, and, without turning, she sed decidedly, "I'm shuur now that I shouldn't be afraed of him, for he's got kiend ies, tho his mouth is grim, and he luuks as if he had a tremendous wil of his oen. He isn't as handsum as mi grandfaather, but I liek him."

"Thank U, maa'am," sed a gruf vois behind her; and thaer, to her graet dismae, stuud oeld Mr. Laurence.

Puur Jo blushed till she couldn't blush any reder, and her hart began to beet uncumfortably fast as she thaut whut she had sed. For a mienuet a wield dezier to run away possessed her; but that wuz cowardly, and th gurls wuud laf at her: so she rezolvd to stae, and get out of th scraep as she cuud. A second luuk shoed her that th living ies, under th bushy grae iebrows, wer kiender eeven than th paented wuns; and thaer wuz a sli twinkle in them, which lesend her feer a guud deel. Th gruf vois wuz gruffer than ever, as th oeld jentlman sed abruptly, after that dredful pause, "So U're not afraed of me, hae?"

"Not much, sur."

"And U don't think me as handsum as yuur grandfaather?"

"Not qiet, sur."

"And I've got a tremendous wil, hav I?"

"I oenly sed I thaut so."

"But U liek me, in spiet of it?"

"Yes, I do, sur."

That anser pleezd th oeld jentlman; he gaev a short laf, shuuk hands with her, and, putting his fingger under her chin, turnd up her faess, examind it gravely, and let it go, saeing, with a nod, 67 "U've got yuur grandfaather's spirit, if U haeven't his faess. He wuz a fien man, mi deer; but, whut is beter, he wuz a braev and an onest wun, and I wuz proud to be his frend."

Putting his finger under her chin

"Thank U, sur;" and Jo wuz qiet comfortable after that, for it suited her exaktly.

"Whut hav U been dooing to this boy of mien, hae?" wuz th next qeschon, sharply put.

"Oenly trieing to be naeborly, sur;" and Jo toeld how her vizit caem about.

"U think he needs cheering up a bit, do U?"

"Yes, sur; he seems a litl loenly, and yung foeks wuud do him guud perhaps. We ar oenly gurls, but we should be glad to help if we cuud, for we don't forget th splendid Christmas prezent U sent us," sed Jo eegerly.

"Tut, tut, tut! that wuz th boy's affair. How is th puur wuuman?"

"Dooing niesly, sur;" and off went Jo, tauking verry fast, as she toeld all about th Hummels, in hoom her muther had interested richer frends than thae wer.

"Just her faather's wae of dooing guud. I shal cum and see yuur muther sum fien dae. Tel her so. Thaer's th tee-bel; we hav it eerly, on th boy's account. Cum doun, and go on being naeborly."

68 "If U'd liek to hav me, sur."

"Shouldn't ask U, if I didn't;" and Mr. Laurence oferd her his arm with oeld-fashond courtesy.

"Whut wuud Meg sae to this?" thaut Jo, as she wuz marcht away, whiel her ies danst with fun as she imajind herself teling th story at hoem.

"Hae! Whi, whut th dickens has cum to th felo?" sed th oeld jentlman, as Laurie caem runing doun staers, and brought up with a start of serpriez at th astonishing siet of Jo arm-in-arm with his re-doutabl grandfaather.

"I didn't noe U'd cum, sur," he began, as Jo gaev him a triumphant litl glanss.

"That's evident, by th wae U raket doun staers. Cum to yuur tee, sur, and behaev liek a jentlman;" and having puuld th boy's haer by wae of a caress, Mr. Laurence waukt on, whiel Laurie went thru a seerys of comik evolutions behind thaer baks, which neerly produced an exploezhon of lafter from Jo.

Th oeld jentlman did not sae much as he drank his foer cups of tee, but he wocht th yung peepl, hoo soon chated away liek oeld frends, and th chaenj in his grandson did not escaep him. Thaer wuz culor, liet, and lief in th boy's faess now, vivacity in his maner, and jenuein merriment in his laf.

"She's riet; th lad is loenly. I'll see whut thees litl gurls can do for him," thaut Mr. Laurence, as he luukt and lisend. He liked Jo, for her od, blunt waes suited him; and she seemd to understand th boy aulmoest as wel as if she had been wun herself.

If th Laurences had been whut Jo called "prim and poky," she wuud not hav got on at all, for such peepl aulwaes maed her shi and aukward; but fiending them free and eezy, she wuz so herself, and maed a guud impreshon. When thae roez she propoezd to go, but Laurie sed he had sumthing mor to sho her, and tuuk her away to th conservatory, which had been lieted for her benefit. It seemd qiet fairylike to Jo, as she went up and doun th wauks, enjoying th blooming wauls on eether sied, th soft liet, th damp sweet aer, and th wunderful viens and trees that hung abuv her,—whiel 69 her nue frend cut th fienest flowers till his hands wer fuul; then he tied them up, saeing, with th hapy luuk Jo liked to see, "Pleez giv thees to yuur muther, and tel her I liek th medisin she sent me verry much."

Please give these to your mother

Thae found Mr. Laurence standing befor th fier in th graet drawing-room, but Jo's atenshon wuz entierly absorbd by a grand piano, which stuud oepen.

"Do U plae?" she askt, turning to Laurie with a respektful expreshon.

"Sumtiems," he anserd modestly.

"Pleez do now. I wont to heer it, so I can tel Beth."

"Wun't U furst?"

"Don't noe how; too stoopid to lurn, but I luv muezik deerly."

So Laurie plaed, and Jo lisend, with her noez lugzhuriusly berryd 70 in heeliotroep and tee-roezes. Her respekt and regard for th "Laurence boy" increest verry much, for he plaed remarkably wel, and didn't put on any aers. She wisht Beth cuud heer him, but she did not sae so; oenly praezd him till he wuz qiet abasht, and his grandfaather caem to th rescue. "That wil do, that wil do, yung laedy. Too meny sugar-plums ar not guud for him. His muezik isn't bad, but I hoep he wil do as wel in mor important things. Going? Wel, I'm much obliejd to U, and I hoep U'll cum again. Mi respekts to yuur muther. Guud-niet, Doktor Jo."

He shuuk hands kiendly, but luukt as if sumthing did not pleez him. When thae got into th haul, Jo askt Laurie if she had sed anything amis. He shuuk his hed.

"No, it wuz me; he doesn't liek to heer me plae."

"Whi not?"

"I'll tel U sum dae. John is going hoem with U, as I can't."

"No need of that; I am not a yung laedy, and it's oenly a step. Taek caer of yuurself, wun't U?"

"Yes; but U wil cum again, I hoep?"

"If U promis to cum and see us after U ar wel."

"I wil."

"Guud-niet, Laurie!"

"Guud-niet, Jo, guud-niet!"

When all th afternoon's advenchers had been toeld, th family felt inclined to go viziting in a body, for eech found sumthing verry atraktiv in th big hous on th uther sied of th hej. Mrs. March wontedw to tauk of her faather with th oeld man hoo had not forgoten him; Meg longed to wauk in th conservatory; Beth sighed for th grand piano; and Amy wuz eeger to see th fien pikchers and stachoos.

"Muther, whi didn't Mr. Laurence liek to hav Laurie plae?" askt Jo, hoo wuz of an inqiering dispozishon.

"I am not shuur, but I think it wuz because his sun, Laurie's faather, marryd an Italian laedy, a muezishan, which displeezd th oeld man, hoo is verry proud. Th laedy wuz guud and luvly and accomplished, but he did not liek her, and never saw his sun after he marryd. 71 Thae boeth died when Laurie wuz a litl chield, and then his grandfaather tuuk him hoem. I fansy th boy, hoo wuz born in Italy, is not verry strong, and th oeld man is afraed of loozing him, which maeks him so careful. Laurie cums nacheraly by his luv of muezik, for he is liek his muther, and I daer sae his grandfaather feers that he mae wont to be a muezishan; at any raet, his skil remiends him of th wuuman he did not liek, and so he 'glowerd,' as Jo sed."

"Deer me, how roemantik!" exclaemd Meg.

"How sily!" sed Jo. "Let him be a muezishan, if he wonts to, and not plaeg his lief out sending him to colej, when he haets to go."

"That's whi he has such handsum blak ies and prity maners, I supoez. Italians ar aulwaes niess," sed Meg, hoo wuz a litl sentimental.

"Whut do U noe about his ies and his maners? U never spoek to him, hardly," cried Jo, hoo wuz not sentimental.

"I saw him at th party, and whut U tel shoes that he noes how to behaev. That wuz a niess litl speech about th medisin muther sent him."

"He ment th blanc-maenj, I supoez."

"How stoopid U ar, chield! He ment U, of corss."

"Did he?" and Jo oepend her ies as if it had never ocurd to her befor.

"I never saw such a gurl! U don't noe a compliment when U get it," sed Meg, with th aer of a yung laedy hoo knew all about th mater.

"I think thae ar graet nonsenss, and I'll thank U not to be sily, and spoil mi fun. Laurie's a niess boy, and I liek him, and I wun't hav any sentimental stuf about compliments and such rubish. We'll all be guud to him, because he hasn't got any muther, and he mae cum oever and see us, mayn't he, Marmee?"

"Yes, Jo, yuur litl frend is verry welcum, and I hoep Meg wil remember that children should be children as long as thae can."

"I don't call mieself a chield, and I'm not in mi teens yet," obzurvd Amy. "Whut do U sae, Beth?"

72 "I wuz thinking about our 'Pilgrim's Progres,'" anserd Beth, hoo had not hurd a wurd. "How we got out of th Slough and thru th Wiket Gaet by rezolving to be guud, and up th steep hil by trieing; and that maebe th hous oever thaer, fuul of splendid things, is going to be our Palis Buetiful."

"We hav got to get by th lieons, furst," sed Jo, as if she rather liked th prospekt.

Tail-piece

VI. Beth fiends th Palis Buetiful.

73

VI.

BETH Fiends Th Palis Buetiful.

Th big hous did proov a Palis Buetiful, tho it tuuk sum tiem for all to get in, and Beth found it verry hard to pas th lieons. Oeld Mr. Laurence wuz th bigest wun; but after he had called, sed sumthing funy or kiend to eech wun of th gurls, and taukt oever oeld times with thaer muther, noebody felt much afraed of him, exsept timid Beth. Th uther lieon wuz th fakt that thae wer puur and Laurie rich; for this maed them shi of accepting faevors which thae cuud not return. But, after a whiel, thae found that he considerd them th benefaktors, and cuud not do enough to sho how graetful he wuz for Mrs. March's mutherly welcum, thaer cheerful soesieety, and th cumfort he tuuk in that humbl hoem of theirs. So thae soon forgot thaer pride, and interchaenjd kiendneses without stoping to think which wuz th graeter.

All sorts of plezant things happened about that tiem; for th nue frendship flurisht liek gras in spring. Every wun liked Laurie, and he privately informd his tuetor that "th Marches wer reguelarly splendid gurls." With th delietful enthusiasm of yooth, thae tuuk th solitaery boy into thaer midst, and maed much of him, and he found sumthing verry charming in th inosent companyonship of thees simpl-hearted gurls. Never having noen muther or sisters, he wuz qik to feel th inflooenses thae brought about him; and thaer busy, lievly waes maed him ashamed of th indolent lief he led. He wuz tierd of books, and found peepl so interesting now that Mr. Brooke wuz obliejd to maek verry unsatisfaktory reports; for Laurie wuz aulwaes plaeing truant, and runing oever to th Marches.

"Never miend; let him taek a holidae, and maek it up afterwards," sed th oeld jentlman. "Th guud laedy next dor sez he is studying 74 too hard, and needs yung soesieety, amuezment, and exercise. I suspekt she is riet, and that I've been codling th felo as if I'd been his grandmuther. Let him do whut he lieks, as long as he is hapy. He can't get into mischif in that litl nunery oever thaer; and Mrs. March is dooing mor for him than we can."

Whut guud times thae had, to be shuur! Such plaes and tableaux, such slae-rieds and skaeting froliks, such plezant evenings in th oeld parlor, and now and then such gae litl partys at th graet hous. Meg cuud wauk in th conservatory whenever she liked, and revel in bouquets; Jo browsed oever th nue liebraery voraeshusly, and convulst th oeld jentlman with her critisizms; Amy copyd pikchers, and enjoyd buety to her hart's content; and Laurie plaed "lord of th manor" in th moest delietful stiel.

But Beth, tho yurning for th grand piano, cuud not pluk up curej to go to th "Manshon of Bliss," as Meg called it. She went wunss with Jo; but th oeld jentlman, not being aware of her infurmity, staerd at her so hard from under his hevy iebrows, and sed "Hae!" so loud, that he frietend her so much her "feet chaterd on th flor," she toeld her muther; and she ran away, declaering she wuud never go thaer any mor, not eeven for th deer piano. No persuasions or entiesments cuud oevercum her feer, till, th fakt cuming to Mr. Laurence's eer in sum misteerius wae, he set about mending maters. Duuring wun of th brief calls he maed, he artfuly led th conversation to muezik, and taukt away about graet singers hoom he had seen, fien organs he had hurd, and toeld such charming anekdoets that Beth found it imposibl to stae in her distant corner, but crept neerer and neerer, as if fasinaeted. At th bak of his chaer she stopt, and stuud lisening, with her graet ies wied oepen, and her cheeks red with th exsietment of this uenuezhual performance. Taeking no mor noetis of her than if she had been a fli, Mr. Laurence taukt on about Laurie's lesons and teechers; and prezently, as if th iedeea had just ocurd to him, he sed to Mrs. March,—

"Th boy neglekts his muezik now, and I'm glad of it, for he wuz geting too fond of it. But th piano sufers for wont of uez. Wouldn't sum of yuur gurls liek to run oever, and practise on it now and then, just to keep it in tuen, U noe, maa'am?"

75 Beth tuuk a step forward, and prest her hands tightly together to keep from claping them, for this wuz an irezistibl temptaeshon; and th thaut of practising on that splendid instrument qiet tuuk her breth away. Befor Mrs. March cuud replie, Mr. Laurence went on with an od litl nod and smiel,—

"Thae needn't see or speek to any wun, but run in at any tiem; for I'm shut up in mi study at th uther end of th hous, Laurie is out a graet deel, and th survants ar never neer th drawing-room after nien o'clok."

Heer he roez, as if going, and Beth maed up her miend to speek, for that last araenjment left nuthing to be dezierd. "Pleez tel th yung laedys whut I sae; and if thae don't caer to cum, whi, never miend." 76 Heer a litl hand slipt into his, and Beth luukt up at him with a faess fuul of gratitood, as she sed, in her urnest yet timid wae,—

"O sur, thae do caer, verry, verry much!"

O sir, they do care very much

"Ar U th muezikal gurl?" he askt, without any startling "Hae!" as he luukt doun at her verry kiendly.

"I'm Beth. I luv it deerly, and I'll cum, if U ar qiet shuur noebody wil heer me—and be disturbs," she aded, feering to be rood, and trembling at her oen boldness as she spoek.

"Not a soel, mi deer. Th hous is empty haf th dae; so cum, and drum away as much as U liek, and I shal be obliejd to U."

"How kiend U ar, sur!"

Beth blushed liek a roez under th frendly luuk he wor; but she wuz not frietend now, and gaev th big hand a graetful sqeez, because she had no wurds to thank him for th precious gift he had given her. Th oeld jentlman softly stroekt th haer off her forhed, and, stooping doun, he kist her, saeing, in a toen fue peepl ever hurd,—

"I had a litl gurl wunss, with ies liek thees. God bles U, mi deer! Guud dae, madam;" and away he went, in a graet hurry.

Beth had a rapcher with her muther, and then rusht up to impart th glorius nues to her family of invalids, as th gurls wer not at hoem. How blithely she sung that evening, and how thae all laft at her, because she woek Amy in th niet by plaeing th piano on her faess in her sleep. Next dae, having seen boeth th oeld and yung jentlman out of th hous, Beth, after too or three retreets, faerly got in at th sied-dor, and maed her wae, as noizlesly as any mous, to th drawing-room, whaer her iedol stuud. Qiet by accident, of corss, sum prity, eezy muezik lae on th piano; and, with trembling finggers, and freeqent stops to lisen and luuk about, Beth at last tucht th graet instrument, and straetwae forgot her feer, herself, and everything else but th unspeekabl deliet which th muezik gaev her, for it wuz liek th vois of a beluved frend.

She staed till Hannah caem to taek her hoem to diner; but she had no apetiet, and cuud oenly sit and smiel upon every wun in a jeneral staet of beatitude.

77

Mr. Laurence often opened his study door

After that, th litl broun huud slipt thru th hej neerly every dae, and th graet drawing-room wuz haunted by a tuenful spirit that caem and went unseen. She never knew that Mr. Laurence ofen oepend his study-dor to heer th oeld-fashond aers he liked; she never saw Laurie mount gard in th haul to worn th survants away; she never suspekted that th exercise-books and nue songs which she found in th rak wer put thaer for her especial benefit; and when he taukt to her about muezik at hoem, she oenly thaut how kiend he wuz to tel things that helpt her so much. So she enjoyd herself hartily, and found, whut isn't aulwaes th caess, that her granted wish wuz all she had hoept. Perhaps it wuz because she wuz so graetful for this blesing that a graeter wuz given her; at any raet, she dezurvd boeth.

"Muther, I'm going to wurk Mr. Laurence a paer of slipers. He is so kiend to me, I must thank him, and I don't noe any uther wae. Can I do it?" askt Beth, a fue weeks after that eventful call of his.

"Yes, deer. It wil pleez him verry much, and be a niess wae of thanking him. Th gurls wil help U about them, and I wil pae for th maeking up," replied Mrs. March, hoo tuuk peculiar plezher in granting Beth's reqests, because she so seldom askt anything for herself.

78 After meny seerius discushons with Meg and Jo, th patern wuz choezen, th mateerials bought, and th slipers begun. A cluster of graev yet cheerful panzys, on a deeper purpl ground, wuz pronounced verry aproepriat and prity; and Beth wurkt away eerly and laet, with ocaezhonal lifts oever hard parts. She wuz a nimbl litl needl-wuuman, and thae wer finisht befor any wun got tierd of them. Then she roet a verry short, simpl noet, and, with Laurie's help, got them smugld on to th study-taebl wun morning befor th oeld jentlman wuz up.

When this exsietment wuz oever, Beth waeted to see whut wuud hapen. All that dae past, and a part of th next, befor any acknowledgment arrived, and she wuz begining to feer she had ofended her crochety frend. On th afternoon of th second dae, she went out to do an errand, and giv puur Joanna, th invalid dol, her daily exercise. As she caem up th street, on her return, she saw three, yes, foer, heds poping in and out of th parlor windoes, and th moement thae saw her, several hands wer waevd, and several joyful voises screemd,—

"Heer's a leter from th oeld jentlman! Cum qik, and red it!"

"O Beth, he's sent U—" began Amy, jesticuelaeting with unseely enerjy; but she got no further, for Jo qencht her by slaming doun th windo.

Beth huryd on in a flutter of suspenss. At th dor, her sisters seezd and bor her to th parlor in a trieumfal procession, all pointing, and all saeing at wunss, "Luuk thaer! luuk thaer!" Beth did luuk, and turnd pale with deliet and serpriez; for thaer stuud a litl cabinet-piano, with a leter lieing on th glosy lid, direkted, liek a sien-bord, to "Mis Elizabeth March."

"For me?" gaspt Beth, hoelding on to Jo, and feeling as if she should tumbl doun, it wuz such an oeverwhelming thing aultogether.

"Yes; all for U, mi precious! Isn't it splendid of him? Don't U think he's th deerest oeld man in th wurld? Heer's th kee in th leter. We didn't oepen it, but we ar dieing to noe whut he sez," cried Jo, huging her sister, and ofering th noet.

79 "U red it! I can't, I feel so qeer! O, it is too luvly!" and Beth hid her faess in Jo's apron, qiet upset by her prezent.

Jo oepend th paeper, and began to laf, for th furst wurds she saw wer,—

"Mis March:
"Deer Madam,—"

"How niess it sounds! I wish sum wun wuud riet to me so!" sed Amy, hoo thaut th oeld-fashond adres verry elegant.

"'I hav had meny paers of slipers in mi lief, but I never had any that suited me so wel as yuurs,'" continued Jo. "'Hart's-eez is mi faevorit flower, and thees wil aulwaes remiend me of th jentl giver. I liek to pae mi dets; so I noe U wil alow "th oeld jentlman" to send U sumthing which wunss belongd to th litl granddauter he lost. With harty thanks and best wishes, I remaen,

"'Yuur graetful frend and humbl survant,

"'James Laurence.'"

"Thaer, Beth, that's an onor to be proud of, I'm shuur! Laurie toeld me how fond Mr. Laurence uezd to be of th chield hoo died, and how he kept all her litl things carefully. Just think, he's given U her piano. That cums of having big bloo ies and luving muezik," sed Jo, trieing to sooth Beth, hoo trembld, and luukt mor exsieted than she had ever been befor.

"See th cuning brakets to hoeld candles, and th niess green silk, pukerd up, with a goeld roez in th midl, and th prity rak and stool, all complete," aded Meg, oepening th instrument and displaeing its beauties.

"'Yuur humbl survant, James Laurence'; oenly think of his rieting that to U. I'll tel th gurls. Thae'll think it's splendid," sed Amy, much imprest by th noet.

"Tri it, huny. Let's heer th sound of th baeby-pianny," sed Hannah, hoo aulwaes tuuk a shaer in th family joys and sorroes.

80 So Beth tried it; and every wun pronounced it th moest remarkabl piano ever hurd. It had evidently been nuely tuend and put in apl-pie order; but, perfect as it wuz, I think th reeal charm of it lae in th hapyest of all hapy faeses which leend oever it, as Beth luvingly tucht th buetiful blak and whiet kees and prest th briet pedals.

"U'll hav to go and thank him," sed Jo, by wae of a joek; for th iedeea of th chield's reealy going never entered her hed.

"Yes, I meen to. I ges I'll go now, befor I get frietend thinking about it." And, to th uter amaezment of th asembld family, Beth waukt deliberatly doun th garden, thru th hej, and in at th Laurences' dor.

"Wel, I wish I mae die if it ain't th qeerest thing I ever see! Th pianny has turnd her hed! She'd never hav gon in her riet miend," cried Hannah, staering after her, whiel th gurls wer renderd qiet speechles by th mirakl.

Thae wuud hav been still mor amaezd if thae had seen whut Beth did afterward. If U wil beleev me, she went and nokt at th study-dor befor she gaev herself tiem to think; and when a gruf vois called out, "Cum in!" she did go in, riet up to Mr. Laurence, hoo luukt qiet taeken abak, and held out her hand, saeing, with oenly a small qaever in her vois, "I caem to thank U, sur, for—" But she didn't finish; for he luukt so frendly that she forgot her speech, and, oenly remembering that he had lost th litl gurl he luvd, she put boeth arms round his nek, and kist him.

She put both arms around his neck and kissed him

If th roof of th hous had sudenly floen off, th oeld jentlman wouldn't hav been mor astonisht; but he liked it,—o, deer, yes, he liked it amaezingly!—and wuz so tucht and pleezd by that confieding litl kis that all his crustiness vanisht; and he just set her on his nee, and laed his rinkld cheek against her roezy wun, feeling as if he had got his oen litl granddauter bak again. Beth seest to feer him from that moement, and sat thaer tauking to him as cosily as if she had noen him all her lief; for luv casts out feer, and gratitood can conker pride. When she went hoem, he waukt with her to her oen gaet, shuuk hands corjaly, and tucht 81 his hat as he marcht bak again, luuking verry stately and erekt, liek a handsum, soeljerly oeld jentlman, as he wuz.

When th gurls saw that performance, Jo began to danss a jig, by wae of expresing her satisfakshon; Amy neerly fel out of th windo in her serpriez; and Meg exclaemd, with uplifted hands, "Wel, I do beleev th wurld is cuming to an end!"


VII. Amy's Valy of Huemiliaeshon.

82

VII.

AMY'S Valy OF Huemiliaeshon.

The Cyclops

"That boy is a perfect Sieclops, isn't he?" sed Amy, wun dae, as Laurie claterd by on horsbak, with a flurish of his whip as he past.

"How daer U sae so, when he's got boeth his ies? and verry handsum wuns thae ar, too," cried Jo, hoo rezented any slighting remarks about her frend.

"I didn't sae anything about his ies, and I don't see whi U need fier up when I admier his rieding."

"O, mi guudnes! that litl gooss means a sentor, and she called him a Sieclops," exclaemd Jo, with a burst of lafter.

"U needn't be so rood; it's oenly a 'laps of lingy,' as Mr. Davis sez," retorted Amy, finishing Jo with her Latin. "I just wish I had a litl of th muny Laurie spends on that horss," she aded, as if to herself, yet hoeping her sisters wuud heer.

"Whi?" askt Meg kiendly, for Jo had gon off in anuther laf at Amy's second blunder.

"I need it so much; I'm dredfuly in det, and it wun't be mi turn to hav th rag-muny for a munth."

83 "In det, Amy? Whut do U meen?" and Meg luukt soeber.

"Whi, I oe at leest a duzen pikld liems, and I can't pae them, U noe, till I hav muny, for Marmee forbaed mi having anything charjd at th shop."

"Tel me all about it. Ar liems th fashon now? It uezd to be priking bits of ruber to maek bauls;" and Meg tried to keep her countenanss, Amy luukt so graev and important.

"Whi, U see, th gurls ar aulwaes buying them, and unles U wont to be thaut meen, U must do it, too. It's nuthing but liems now, for every wun is suking them in thaer desks in scool-tiem, and traeding them off for pensils, beed-rings, paeper dols, or sumthing else, at resess (vurb). If wun gurl lieks anuther, she givs her a liem; if she's mad with her, she eets wun befor her faess, and don't ofer eeven a suk. Thae treat by turns; and I've had ever so meny, but haeven't returnd them; and I aut, for thae ar dets of onor, U noe."

"How much wil pae them off, and restor yuur credit?" askt Meg, taeking out her purss.

"A qorter wuud mor than do it, and leev a fue sents oever for a treat for U. Don't U liek liems?"

"Not much; U mae hav mi shaer. Heer's th muny. Maek it last as long as U can, for it isn't verry plenty, U noe."

"O, thank U! It must be so niess to hav poket-muny! I'll hav a grand feest, for I haeven't taested a liem this week. I felt delicat about taeking any, as I couldn't return them, and I'm akchualy sufering for wun."

Next dae Amy wuz rather laet at scool; but cuud not rezist th temptaeshon of displaeing, with pardonable pride, a moist broun-paeper parsel, befor she consiend it to th inmoest reseses (vurb) of her desk. Duuring th next fue minits th roomor that Amy March had got twenty-foer delicious liems (she aet wun on th wae), and wuz going to treat, surcuelaeted thru her "set," and th atenshons of her frends becaem qiet oeverwhelming. Katy Broun invieted her to her next party on th spot; Mary Kingsley insisted on lending her her woch till resess (vurb); and Jeny Sno, a satirikal yung laedy, hoo had basely twitted Amy upon her limeless staet, promptly berryd th hatchet, 84 and oferd to furnish ansers to surten apauling sums. But Amy had not forgoten Mis Sno's cuting remarks about "sum pursons hoos noezes wer not too flat to smel uther peepl's liems, and stuk-up peepl, hoo wer not too proud to ask for them;" and she instantly crusht "that Sno gurl's" hoeps by th withering telegram, "U needn't be so poliet all of a suden, for U wun't get any."

A distingwhisht pursonej happened to vizit th scool that morning, and Amy's beautifully drawn maps reseevd praez, which onor to her foe rankld in th soel of Mis Sno, and cauzd Mis March to asuem th aers of a stoodius yung peacock. But, alas, alas! pride goes befor a faul, and th revenjful Sno turnd th taebls with dizastrus success. No sooner had th guessed paed th uezhual stael compliments, and bowd himself out, than Jeny, under preetenss of asking an important qeschon, informd Mr. Davis, th teecher, that Amy March had pikld liems in her desk.

Now Mr. Davis had declaerd liems a contraband artikl, and solemly vowd to publikly ferrule th furst purson hoo wuz found braeking th law. This much-enduuring man had succeeded in banishing chooing-gum after a long and stormy wor, had maed a bonfier of th confiscated novels and nuezpaepers, had suprest a private poest-ofis, had forbiden distorshons of th faess, niknaems, and caricatures, and dun all that wun man cuud do to keep haf a hundred rebelyus gurls in order. Boys ar trieing enough to hueman paeshenss, guudnes noes! but gurls ar infinitly mor so, especially to nurvus jentlmen, with tyrannical tempers, and no mor talent for teeching than Dr. Blimber. Mr. Davis knew any qontity of Greek, Latin, Aljebra, and ologies of all sorts, so he wuz called a fien teecher; and maners, morals, feelings, and exampls wer not considerd of any particular importanss. It wuz a moest unforchunat moement for denounsing Amy, and Jeny knew it. Mr. Davis had evidently taeken his cofy too strong that morning; thaer wuz an eest wiend, which aulwaes affected his nuuralja; and his pupils had not dun him th credit which he felt he dezurvd: thaerfor, to uez th expresiv, if not elegant, langgwej of a scool-gurl, "he wuz as nurvus as a wich and as cros as a baer." Th wurd "liems" wuz liek fier to 85 pouder; his yelo faess flusht, and he rapped on his desk with an enerjy which maed Jeny skip to her seet with uenuezhual rapidity.

"Yung laedys, atenshon, if U pleez!"

At th sturn order th buz seest, and fifty paers of bloo, blak, grae, and broun ies wer oebeedi’ently fixed upon his auful countenanss.

"Mis March, cum to th desk."

Amy roez to comply with outward composure, but a seecret feer oprest her, for th liems waed upon her conshenss.

"Bring with U th liems U hav in yuur desk," wuz th unexpekted comand which arest her befor she got out of her seet.

"Don't taek all," whisperd her naebor, a yung laedy of graet presence of miend.

Amy haestily shuuk out haf a duzen, and laed th rest doun befor Mr. Davis, feeling that any man possessing a hueman hart wuud relent when that delicious perfume met his noez. Unforchunatly, Mr. Davis particularly detested th odor of th fashonabl pikl, and disgust aded to his rath.

"Is that all?"

"Not qiet," stamerd Amy.

"Bring th rest imeediatly."

With a despaering glanss at her set, she oebaed.

"U ar shuur thaer ar no mor?"

"I never lie, sur."

"So I see. Now taek thees disgusting things too by too, and thro them out of th windo."

Thaer wuz a simultaneous sie, which creaeted qiet a litl gust, as th last hoep fled, and th treat wuz ravisht from thaer longing lips. Scarlet with shaem and angger, Amy went to and fro six dredful times; and as eech doomed cupl—luuking o! so plump and joosy—fel from her reluktant hands, a shout from th street completed th anguish of th gurls, for it toeld them that thaer feest wuz being exulted oever by th litl Irish children, hoo wer thaer sworn foes. This—this wuz too much; all flasht indignant or apeeling glanses at th inexsorabl Davis, and wun pashonat liem-luver burst into teers.

As Amy returnd from her last trip, Mr. Davis gaev a portentous "Hem!" and sed, in his moest impresiv maner,—

86 "Yung laedys, U remember whut I sed to U a week ago. I am sorry this has happened, but I never alow mi rools to be infrinjd, and I never braek mi wurd. Mis March, hoeld out yuur hand."

Amy started, and put boeth hands behind her, turning on him an imploring luuk which pleeded for her beter than th wurds she cuud not uter. She wuz rather a faevorit with "oeld Davis," as, of corss, he wuz called, and it's mi private beleef that he wuud hav broeken his wurd if th indignaeshon of wun irepresibl yung laedy had not found vent in a hiss. That hiss, faent as it wuz, iritaeted th irasibl jentlman, and seeld th culprit's faet.

"Yuur hand, Mis March!" wuz th oenly anser her muet apeel reseevd; and, too proud to cri or beseech, Amy set her teeth, 87 throo bak her hed defieantly, and bor without flinching several tingling bloes on her litl paam. Thae wer neether meny nor hevy, but that maed no diferenss to her. For th furst tiem in her lief she had been struk; and th disgraess, in her ies, wuz as deep as if he had nokt her doun.

Amy bore without flinching several tingling blows

"U wil now stand on th platform till resess (vurb)," sed Mr. Davis, rezolvd to do th thing thuroely, sinss he had begun.

That wuz dredful. It wuud hav been bad enough to go to her seet, and see th pitying faeses of her frends, or th satisfied wuns of her fue enemys; but to faess th hoel scool, with that shaem fresh upon her, seemd imposibl, and for a second she felt as if she cuud oenly drop doun whaer she stuud, and braek her hart with crieing. A biter senss of rong, and th thaut of Jeny Sno, helpt her to baer it; and, taeking th ignominus plaess, she fixed her ies on th stoev-funel abuv whut now seemd a see of faeses, and stuud thaer, so moeshonles and whiet that th gurls found it verry hard to study, with that pathetik figuer befor them.

Duuring th fifteen minits that foloed, th proud and sensitive litl gurl suferd a shaem and paen which she never forgot. To others it miet seem a loodicrus or trivial affair, but to her it wuz a hard expeeri’enss; for duuring th twelve yeers of her lief she had been guvernd by luv aloen, and a blo of that sort had never tucht her befor. Th smart of her hand and th aek of her hart wer forgoten in th sting of th thaut,—

"I shal hav to tel at hoem, and thae wil be so disapointed in me!"

Th fifteen minits seemd an our; but thae caem to an end at last, and th wurd "Resess (vurb)!" had never seemd so welcum to her befor.

"U can go, Mis March," sed Mr. Davis, luuking, as he felt, uncumfortabl.

He did not soon forget th reproechful glanss Amy gaev him, as she went, without a wurd to any wun, straet into th ante-room, snacht her things, and left th plaess "forever," as she pashonatly declaerd to herself. She wuz in a sad staet when she got hoem; and when th oelder gurls arrived, sum tiem laeter, an indignaeshon meeting wuz 88 held at wunss. Mrs. March did not sae much, but luukt disturbs, and cumforted her aflikted litl dauter in her tenderest maner. Meg baethd th insulted hand with gliserin and teers; Beth felt that eeven her beluved kitens wuud fael as a balm for griefs liek this; Jo rathfuly propoezd that Mr. Davis be arest without delae; and Hannah shuuk her fist at th "vilan," and pounded potaetoes for diner as if she had him under her pesl.

No noetis wuz taeken of Amy's fliet, exsept by her maets; but th sharp-ied demoiselles discuverd that Mr. Davis wuz qiet benignant in th afternoon, aulso unuezhualy nurvus. Just befor scool cloezd, Jo apeerd, waering a grim expreshon, as she staukt up to th desk, and deliverd a leter from her muther; then colekted Amy's property, and departed, carefully scraeping th mud from her boots on th dor-mat, as if she shuuk th dust of th plaess off her feet.

"Yes, U can hav a vaecaeshon from scool, but I wont U to study a litl every dae, with Beth," sed Mrs. March, that evening. "I don't aproov of corporal punishment, especially for gurls. I disliek Mr. Davis's maner of teeching, and don't think th gurls U asoeshiat with ar dooing U any guud, so I shal ask yuur faather's advice befor I send U anywhere else."

"That's guud! I wish all th gurls wuud leev, and spoil his oeld scool. It's perfectly madening to think of thoes luvly liems," sighed Amy, with th aer of a marter.

"I am not sorry U lost them, for U broek th rools, and dezurvd sum punishment for disoebeedi’enss," wuz th seveer replie, which rather disapointed th yung laedy, hoo expected nuthing but simpathy.

"Do U meen U ar glad I wuz disgraest befor th hoel scool?" cried Amy.

"I should not hav choezen that wae of mending a fault," replied her muther; "but I'm not shuur that it wun't do U mor guud than a mielder method. U ar geting to be rather conseeted, mi deer, and it is qiet tiem U set about corekting it. U hav a guud meny litl gifts and vurchoos, but thaer is no need of parading them, for conseet spoils th fienest jeenyus. Thaer is not much daenjer that reeal talent or guudnes wil be oeverluukt long; eeven if it is, th 89 conshusnes of possessing and uezing it wel should satisfi wun, and th graet charm of all power is modesty."

"So it is!" cried Laurie, hoo wuz plaeing ches in a corner with Jo. "I knew a gurl, wunss, hoo had a reealy remarkabl talent for muezik, and she didn't noe it; never guessed whut sweet litl things she compoezd when she wuz aloen, and wouldn't hav beleevd it if any wun had toeld her."

"I wish I'd noen that niess gurl; maebe she wuud hav helpt me, I'm so stoopid," sed Beth, hoo stuud besied him, lisening eegerly.

"U do noe her, and she helps U beter than any wun else cuud," anserd Laurie, luuking at her with such mischivus meening in his merry blak ies, that Beth sudenly turnd verry red, and hid her faess in th soefa-cuushon, qiet oevercum by such an unexpekted discuvery.

You do know her

Jo let Laurie win th gaem, to pae for that praez of her Beth, hoo 90 cuud not be prevaeld upon to plae for them after her compliment. So Laurie did his best, and sung delietfuly, being in a particularly lievly huemor, for to th Marches he seldom shoed th moody sied of his carrakter. When he wuz gon, Amy, hoo had been pensiv all th evening, sed sudenly, as if busy oever sum nue iedeea,—

"Is Laurie an accomplished boy?"

"Yes; he has had an exselent ejucaeshon, and has much talent; he wil maek a fien man, if not spoilt by peting," replied her muther.

"And he isn't conseeted, is he?" askt Amy.

"Not in th leest; that is whi he is so charming, and we all liek him so much."

"I see; it's niess to hav accomplishments, and be elegant; but not to sho off, or get perked up," sed Amy thautfuly.

"Thees things ar aulwaes seen and felt in a purson's maner and conversation, if modestly uezd; but it is not nesesaery to displae them," sed Mrs. March.

"Any mor than it's proper to waer all yuur bonnets and gouns and ribons at wunss, that foeks mae noe U've got them," aded Jo; and th lecture ended in a laf.


VIII. Jo Meets Apollyon.

91

Girls, where are you going?

VIII.

JO MEETS APOLLYON.

"Gurls, whaer ar U going?" askt Amy, cuming into thaer room wun Saturday afternoon, and fiending them geting redy to go out, with an aer of seecresy which exsieted her cueriosity.

"Never miend; litl gurls shouldn't ask qeschons," returnd Jo sharply.

Now if thaer is anything mortifying to our feelings, when we ar yung, it is to be toeld that; and to be bidden to "run away, deer," is still mor trieing to us. Amy bridled up at this insult, and deturmind to fiend out th seecret, if she teezd for an our. Turning to Meg, hoo never refuezd her anything verry long, she sed coaxingly, "Do tel me! I should think U miet let me go, too; for Beth is 92 fusing oever her piano, and I haeven't got anything to do, and am so loenly."

"I can't, deer, because U aren't invieted," began Meg; but Jo broek in impaeshently, "Now, Meg, be qieet, or U wil spoil it all. U can't go, Amy; so don't be a baeby, and whien about it."

"U ar going sumwhaer with Laurie, I noe U ar; U wer whispering and lafing together, on th soefa, last niet, and U stopt when I caem in. Aren't U going with him?"

"Yes, we ar; now do be still, and stop bothering."

Amy held her tung, but uezd her ies, and saw Meg slip a fan into her poket.

"I noe! I noe! U're going to th theeater to see th 'Seven Casls!'" she cried; ading rezolootly, "and I shal go, for muther sed I miet see it; and I've got mi rag-muny, and it wuz meen not to tel me in tiem."

"Just lisen to me a mienuet, and be a guud chield," sed Meg soothingly. "Muther doesn't wish U to go this week, because yuur ies ar not wel enough yet to baer th liet of this faery peess. Next week U can go with Beth and Hannah, and hav a niess tiem."

"I don't liek that haf as wel as going with U and Laurie. Pleez let me; I've been sik with this coeld so long, and shut up, I'm dieing for sum fun. Do, Meg! I'll be ever so guud," pleeded Amy, luuking as pathetik as she cuud.

"Supoez we taek her. I don't beleev muther wuud miend, if we bundle her up wel," began Meg.

"If she goes I sha'n't; and if I don't, Laurie wun't liek it; and it wil be verry rood, after he invieted oenly us, to go and drag in Amy. I should think she'd haet to poek herself whaer she isn't wontedw," sed Jo crosly, for she disliekt th trubl of oeverseeing a fijety chield, when she wontedw to enjoy herself.

Her toen and maner anggerd Amy, hoo began to put her boots on, saeing, in her moest aggravating wae, "I shal go; Meg sez I mae; and if I pae for mieself, Laurie hasn't anything to do with it."

"U can't sit with us, for our seets ar rezurvd, and U mustn't sit aloen; so Laurie wil giv U his plaess, and that wil spoil our 93 plezher; or he'll get anuther seet for U, and that isn't proper, when U weren't askt. U sha'n't stur a step; so U mae just stae whaer U ar," scoelded Jo, crosser than ever, having just prikt her fingger in her hurry.

Sitting on th flor, with wun boot on, Amy began to cri, and Meg to reezon with her, when Laurie called from beloe, and th too gurls huryd doun, leeving thaer sister waeling; for now and then she forgot her groen-up waes, and akted liek a spoilt chield. Just as th party wuz setting out, Amy called oever th banisters, in a thretening toen, "U'll be sorry for this, Jo March; see if U ain't."

"Fidlstiks!" returnd Jo, slaming th dor.

Thae had a charming tiem, for "Th Seven Casls of th Diemond Laek" wer as brilliant and wunderful as hart cuud wish. But, in spiet of th comikal red imps, sparkling elvs, and gorjus prinses and princesses, Jo's plezher had a drop of bitterness in it; th faery qeen's yelo curls remiended her of Amy; and between th akts she amuezd herself with wundering whut her sister wuud do to maek her "sorry for it." She and Amy had had meny lievly skirmishes in th corss of thaer lievs, for boeth had qik tempers, and wer apt to be vieolent when faerly rouzd. Amy teezd Jo, and Jo iritaeted Amy, and semy-ocaezhonal exploezhons ocurd, of which boeth wer much ashamed afterward. Aultho th oeldest, Jo had th leest self-controel, and had hard times trieing to curb th fiery spirit which wuz continually geting her into trubl; her angger never lasted long, and, having humbly confest her fault, she sincerely repented, and tried to do beter. Her sisters uezd to sae that thae rather liked to get Jo into a fuery, because she wuz such an aenjel afterward. Puur Jo tried desperatly to be guud, but her bosom enemy wuz aulwaes redy to flaem up and defeet her; and it tuuk yeers of paeshent efort to subdue it.

When thae got hoem, thae found Amy reeding in th parlor. She asuemd an injerd aer as thae caem in; never lifted her ies from her book, or askt a singgl qeschon. Perhaps cueriosity miet hav conkerd rezentment, if Beth had not been thaer to inqier, and reseev a gloeing descripshon of th plae. On going up to put away her best hat, Jo's furst luuk wuz tord th bureau; for, in thaer last 94 qorrel, Amy had soothd her feelings by turning Jo's top drawer upsied doun on th flor. Everything wuz in its plaess, however; and after a hasty glanss into her vaerius clozets, bags, and boxes, Jo desieded that Amy had forgiven and forgoten her rongs.

Thaer Jo wuz mistaeken; for next dae she maed a discuvery which produced a tempest. Meg, Beth, and Amy wer sitting together, laet in th afternoon, when Jo burst into th room, luuking exsieted, and demanding breathlessly, "Has any wun taeken mi book?"

Meg and Beth sed "No," at wunss, and luukt serpriezd; Amy poekt th fier, and sed nuthing. Jo saw her culor riez, and wuz doun upon her in a mienuet.

"Amy, U've got it?"

"No, I haeven't."

"U noe whaer it is, then?"

"No, I don't."

"That's a fib!" cried Jo, taeking her by th shoulders, and luuking feerss enough to frieten a much braever chield than Amy.

"It isn't. I haeven't got it, don't noe whaer it is now, and don't caer."

"U noe sumthing about it, and U'd beter tel at wunss, or I'll maek U," and Jo gaev her a sliet shaek.

"Scoeld as much as U liek, U'll never see yuur sily oeld book again," cried Amy, geting exsieted in her turn.

"Whi not?"

"I burnt it up."

I burnt it up

"Whut! mi litl book I wuz so fond of, and wurkt oever, and ment to finish befor faather got hoem? Hav U reealy burnt it?" sed Jo, turning verry pale, whiel her ies kindld and her hands clutched Amy nurvusly.

"Yes, I did! I toeld U I'd maek U pae for being so cros yesterdae, and I hav, so—"

Amy got no farther, for Jo's hot temper masterd her, and she shuuk Amy till her teeth chaterd in her hed; crieing, in a pashon of greef and angger,—

"U wiked, wiked gurl! I never can riet it again, and I'll never forgiv U as long as I liv."

95 Meg floo to rescue Amy, and Beth to pasifi Jo, but Jo wuz qiet besied herself; and, with a parting box on her sister's eer, she rusht out of th room up to th oeld soefa in th garret, and finisht her fiet aloen.

Th storm cleerd up beloe, for Mrs. March caem hoem, and, having hurd th story, soon brought Amy to a senss of th rong she had dun her sister. Jo's book wuz th pride of her hart, and wuz regarded by her family as a literaery sprout of graet promis. It wuz oenly haf a duzen litl faery taels, but Jo had wurkt oever them paeshently, putting her hoel hart into her wurk, hoeping to maek sumthing guud enough to print. She had just copyd them with graet caer, and had destroyd th oeld manuescript, so that Amy's bonfier had consuemd th luving wurk of several yeers. It seemd 96 a small lost to others, but to Jo it wuz a dredful calamity, and she felt that it never cuud be maed up to her. Beth mornd as for a departed kiten, and Meg refuezd to defend her pet; Mrs. March luukt graev and greevd, and Amy felt that no wun wuud luv her till she had askt pardon for th akt which she now regreted mor than any of them.

When th tee-bel rung, Jo apeerd, luuking so grim and unapproachable that it tuuk all Amy's curej to sae meekly,—

"Pleez forgiv me, Jo; I'm verry, verry sorry."

"I never shal forgiv U," wuz Jo's sturn anser; and, from that moement, she ignord Amy entierly.

No wun spoek of th graet trubl,—not eeven Mrs. March,—for all had lurnd by expeeri’enss that when Jo wuz in that mood wurds wer waested; and th wiezest corss wuz to waet till sum litl accident, or her oen jenerus naechuur, sofend Jo's rezentment, and heeld th breach. It wuz not a hapy evening; for, tho thae soed as uezhual, whiel thaer muther red aloud from Bremer, Scott, or Edgeworth, sumthing wuz wonting, and th sweet hoem-peess wuz disturbs. Thae felt this moest when singing-tiem caem; for Beth cuud oenly plae, Jo stuud dum as a stoen, and Amy broek doun, so Meg and muther sung aloen. But, in spiet of thaer eforts to be as cheery as larks, th floot-liek voises did not seem to cord as wel as uezhual, and all felt out of tuen.

As Jo reseevd her guud-niet kis, Mrs. March whisperd jently,—

"Mi deer, don't let th sun go doun upon yuur angger; forgiv eech uther, help eech uther, and begin again to-morro."

Jo wontedw to lae her hed doun on that mutherly bosom, and cri her greef and angger all away; but teers wer an unmanly weeknes, and she felt so deeply injerd that she reealy couldn't qiet forgiv yet. So she winkt hard, shuuk her hed, and sed, grufly because Amy wuz lisening,—

"It wuz an abominabl thing, and she don't dezurv to be forgiven."

With that she marcht off to bed, and thaer wuz no merry or confidenshal gosip that niet.

97 Amy wuz much ofended that her oeverchers of peess had been repulst, and began to wish she had not humbld herself, to feel mor injerd than ever, and to plume herself on her superior vurchoo in a wae which wuz particularly exasperaeting. Jo still luukt liek a thunder-cloud, and nuthing went wel all dae. It wuz biter coeld in th morning; she dropt her precious turn-oever in th gutter, Ant March had an attack of fijets, Meg wuz pensiv, Beth wuud luuk greevd and wistful when she got hoem, and Amy kept maeking remarks about peepl hoo wer aulwaes tauking about being guud, and yet wouldn't tri, when uther peepl set them a vurchu’us exampl.

"Everybody is so haetful, I'll ask Laurie to go skaeting. He is aulwaes kiend and joly, and wil put me to riets, I noe," sed Jo to herself, and off she went.

Amy hurd th clash of skaets, and luukt out with an impaeshent exclamation,—

"Thaer! she promist I should go next tiem, for this is th last iess we shal hav. But it's no uez to ask such a cros-pach to taek me."

"Don't sae that; U wer verry nauty, and it is hard to forgiv th lost of her precious litl book; but I think she miet do it now, and I ges she wil, if U tri her at th riet mienuet," sed Meg. "Go after them; don't sae anything till Jo has got guud-naecherd with Laurie, then taek a qieet mienuet, and just kis her, or do sum kiend thing, and I'm shuur she'll be frends again, with all her hart."

"I'll tri," sed Amy, for th advice suited her; and, after a flury to get redy, she ran after th frends, hoo wer just disapeering oever th hil.

It wuz not far to th river, but boeth wer redy befor Amy reached them. Jo saw her cuming, and turnd her bak; Laurie did not see, for he wuz carefully skaeting along th shor, sounding th iess, for a worm spel had preceded th coeld snap.

"I'll go on to th furst bend, and see if it's all riet, befor we begin to raess," Amy hurd him sae, as he shot away, luuking liek a yung Russian, in his fur-trimmed coet and cap.

98 Jo hurd Amy panting after her run, stamping her feet and bloeing her finggers, as she tried to put her skaets on; but Jo never turnd, and went sloely zagzaging doun th river, taeking a biter, unhapy sort of satisfakshon in her sister's trubls. She had cherrisht her angger till it groo strong, and tuuk possession of her, as eevil thoughts and feelings aulwaes do, unles cast out at wunss. As Laurie turnd th bend, he shouted bak,—

"Keep neer th shor; it isn't saef in th midl."

Jo hurd, but Amy wuz just strugling to her feet, and did not cach a wurd. Jo glanst oever her shoulder, and th litl deemon she wuz harboring sed in her eer,—

"No mater whether she hurd or not, let her taek caer of herself."

Laurie had vanisht round th bend; Jo wuz just at th turn, and Amy, far behind, strieking out tord th smoother iess in th midl of th river. For a mienuet Jo stuud still, with a straenj feeling at her hart; then she rezolvd to go on, but sumthing held and turnd her round, just in tiem to see Amy thro up her hands and go doun, with th suden crash of roten iess, th splash of wauter, and a cri that maed Jo's hart stand still with feer. She tried to call Laurie, but her vois wuz gon; she tried to rush forward, but her feet seemd to hav no strength in them; and, for a second, she cuud oenly stand moeshonles, staering, with a terror-striken faess, at th litl bloo huud abuv th blak wauter. Sumthing rusht swiftly by her, and Laurie's vois cried out,—

"Bring a rael; qik, qik!"

How she did it, she never knew; but for th next fue minits she wurkt as if possessed, bliendly oebaeing Laurie, hoo wuz qiet self-possessed, and, lieing flat, held Amy up by his arm and hoky till Jo dragd a rael from th fenss, and together thae got th chield out, mor frietend than hurt.

Held Amy up by his arms and hockey

"Now then, we must wauk her hoem as fast as we can; piel our things on her, whiel I get off thees confounded skaets," cried Laurie, raping his coet round Amy, and tuging away at th straps, which never seemd so intricat befor.

Shivering, driping, and crieing, thae got Amy hoem; and, after 99 an exsieting tiem of it, she fel asleep, roeld in blankets, befor a hot fier. Duuring th busl Jo had scaersly spoeken; but floen about, luuking pale and wield, with her things haf off, her dres torn, and her hands cut and broozd by iess and raels, and refraktory bukls. When Amy wuz comfortably asleep, th hous qieet, and Mrs. March sitting by th bed, she called Jo to her, and began to biend up th hurt hands.

"Ar U shuur she is saef?" whisperd Jo, luuking remorsfuly at th goelden hed, which miet hav been swept away from her siet forever under th treacherous iess.

"Qiet saef, deer; she is not hurt, and wun't eeven taek coeld, I think, U wer so sensibl in cuvering and geting her hoem qikly," replied her muther cheerfuly.

"Laurie did it all; I oenly let her go. Muther, if she should die, it wuud be mi fault"; and Jo dropt doun besied th bed, in a pashon of penitent teers, teling all that had happened, biterly condeming 100 her hardnes of hart, and sobing out her gratitood for being spaerd th hevy punishment which miet hav cum upon her.

"It's mi dredful temper! I tri to cuer it; I think I hav, and then it braeks out wurss than ever. O muther, whut shal I do? whut shal I do?" cried puur Jo, in despaer.

"Woch and prae, deer; never get tierd of trieing; and never think it is imposibl to conker yuur fault," sed Mrs. March, drawing th blowzy hed to her shoulder, and kissing th wet cheek so tenderly that Jo cried harder than ever.

"U don't noe, U can't ges how bad it is! It seems as if I cuud do anything when I'm in a pashon; I get so savej, I cuud hurt any wun, and enjoy it. I'm afraed I shal do sumthing dredful sum dae, and spoil mi lief, and maek everybody haet me. O muther, help me, do help me!"

"I wil, mi chield, I wil. Don't cri so biterly, but remember this dae, and rezolv, with all yuur soel, that U wil never noe anuther liek it. Jo, deer, we all hav our temptaeshons, sum far graeter than yuurs, and it ofen taeks us all our lievs to conker them. U think yuur temper is th wurst in th wurld; but mien uezd to be just liek it."

"Yuurs, muther? Whi, U ar never anggry!" and, for th moement, Jo forgot remorss in serpriez.

"I've been trieing to cuer it for forty yeers, and hav oenly succeeded in controeling it. I am anggry neerly every dae of mi lief, Jo; but I hav lurnd not to sho it; and I still hoep to lurn not to feel it, tho it mae taek me anuther forty yeers to do so."

Th paeshenss and th huemility of th faess she luvd so wel wuz a beter leson to Jo than th wiezest lecture, th sharpest reproof. She felt cumforted at wunss by th simpathy and confidenss given her; th nolej that her muther had a fault liek hers, and tried to mend it, maed her oen eezyer to baer and strengthend her rezolooshon to cuer it; tho forty yeers seemd rather a long tiem to woch and prae, to a gurl of fifteen.

"Muther, ar U anggry when U foeld yuur lips tight together, and go out of th room sumtiems, when Ant March scoelds, or 101 peepl wury U?" askt Jo, feeling neerer and deerer to her muther than ever befor.

"Yes, I've lurnd to chek th hasty wurds that riez to mi lips; and when I feel that thae meen to braek out against mi wil, I just go away a mienuet, and giv mieself a litl shaek, for being so week and wiked," anserd Mrs. March, with a sie and a smiel, as she smoothd and fasend up Jo's dishevelled haer.

"How did U lurn to keep still? That is whut trubls me—for th sharp wurds fli out befor I noe whut I'm about; and th mor I sae th wurss I get, till it's a plezher to hurt peepl's feelings, and sae dredful things. Tel me how U do it, Marmee deer."

"Mi guud muther uezd to help me—"

"As U do us—" interupted Jo, with a graetful kis.

"But I lost her when I wuz a litl oelder than U ar, and for yeers had to strugl on aloen, for I wuz too proud to confes mi weeknes to any wun else. I had a hard tiem, Jo, and shed a guud meny biter teers oever mi faeluers; for, in spiet of mi eforts, I never seemd to get on. Then yuur faather caem, and I wuz so hapy that I found it eezy to be guud. But by and by, when I had foer litl dauters round me, and we wer puur, then th oeld trubl began again; for I am not paeshent by naechuur, and it tried me verry much to see mi children wonting anything."

"Puur muther! whut helpt U then?"

"Yuur faather, Jo. He never loozes paeshenss,—never doubts or complaens,—but aulwaes hoeps, and wurks and waets so cheerfuly, that wun is ashamed to do utherwiez befor him. He helpt and cumforted me, and shoed me that I must tri to practise all th vurchoos I wuud hav mi litl gurls possess, for I wuz thaer exampl. It wuz eezyer to tri for yuur saeks than for mi oen; a startld or serpriezd luuk from wun of U, when I spoek sharply, rebuekt me mor than any wurds cuud hav dun; and th luv, respekt, and confidenss of mi children wuz th sweetest reword I cuud reseev for mi eforts to be th wuuman I wuud hav them copy."

"O muther, if I'm ever haf as guud as U, I shal be satisfied," cried Jo, much tucht.

102 "I hoep U wil be a graet deel beter, deer; but U must keep woch oever yuur 'bosom enemy,' as faather calls it, or it mae sadden, if not spoil yuur lief. U hav had a worning; remember it, and tri with hart and soel to master this qik temper, befor it brings U graeter sorro and regret than U hav noen to-dae."

"I wil tri, muther; I truly wil. But U must help me, remiend me, and keep me from flieing out. I uezd to see faather sumtiems put his fingger on his lips, and luuk at U with a verry kiend, but soeber faess, and U aulwaes foelded yuur lips tight or went away: wuz he remiending U then?" askt Jo softly.

"Yes; I askt him to help me so, and he never forgot it, but saevd me from meny a sharp wurd by that litl jescher and kiend luuk."

Jo saw that her muther's ies fild and her lips trembld, as she spoek; and, feering that she had sed too much, she whisperd anxiously, "Wuz it rong to woch U, and to speek of it? I didn't meen to be rood, but it's so comfortable to sae all I think to U, and feel so saef and hapy heer."

"Mi Jo, U mae sae anything to yuur muther, for it is mi graetest hapynes and pride to feel that mi gurls confied in me, and noe how much I luv them."

"I thaut I'd greevd U."

"No, deer; but speeking of faather remiended me how much I mis him, how much I oe him, and how faethfuly I should woch and wurk to keep his litl dauters saef and guud for him."

"Yet U toeld him to go, muther, and didn't cri when he went, and never complaen now, or seem as if U needed any help," sed Jo, wundering.

"I gaev mi best to th cuntry I luv, and kept mi teers till he wuz gon. Whi should I complaen, when we boeth hav meerly dun our duty and wil surely be th hapyer for it in th end? If I don't seem to need help, it is because I hav a beter frend, eeven than faather, to cumfort and sustaen me. Mi chield, th trubls and temptaeshons of yuur lief ar begining, and mae be meny; but U can oevercum and outliv them all if U lurn to feel th strength and tenderness of yuur Hevenly Faather as U do that of yuur urthly 103 wun. Th mor U luv and trust Him, th neerer U wil feel to Him, and th les U wil depend on hueman power and wizdom. His luv and caer never tier or chaenj, can never be taeken from U, but mae becum th sorss of lief-long peess, hapynes, and strength. Beleev this hartily, and go to God with all yuur litl caers, and hoeps, and sins, and sorroes, as freely and confidingly as U cum to yuur muther."

Jo's oenly anser wuz to hoeld her muther cloez, and, in th silence which foloed, th sincerest praer she had ever praed left her hart without wurds; for in that sad, yet hapy our, she had lurnd not oenly th bitterness of remorss and despaer, but th sweetness of self-denieal and self-controel; and, led by her muther's hand, she had drawn neerer to th Frend hoo welcums every chield with a luv strongger than that of any faather, tenderer than that of any muther.

Amy sturd, and sighed in her sleep; and, as if eeger to begin at wunss to mend her fault, Jo luukt up with an expreshon on her faess which it had never worn befor.

"I let th sun go doun on mi angger; I wouldn't forgiv her, and to-dae, if it hadn't been for Laurie, it miet hav been too laet! How cuud I be so wiked?" sed Jo, haf aloud, as she leend oever her sister, softly stroeking th wet haer scaterd on th pilo.

As if she hurd, Amy oepend her ies, and held out her arms, with a smiel that went straet to Jo's hart. Neether sed a wurd, but thae hugd wun anuther cloez, in spiet of th blankets, and everything wuz forgiven and forgoten in wun harty kis.


IX. Meg goes to Vanity Faer.

104

Packing the go abroady trunk

IX.

MEG GOES TO VANITY Faer.

"I do think it wuz th moest forchunat thing in th wurld that thoes children should hav th meezls just now," sed Meg, wun April dae, as she stuud paking th "go abroady" trunk in her room, serounded by her sisters.

"And so niess of Annie Moffat not to forget her promis. A hoel fortniet of fun wil be reguelarly splendid," replied Jo, luuking liek a windmil, as she foelded scurts with her long arms.

105 "And such luvly wether; I'm so glad of that," aded Beth, tidily sorting nek and haer ribons in her best box, lent for th graet ocaezhon.

"I wish I wuz going to hav a fien tiem, and waer all thees niess things," sed Amy, with her mouth fuul of pins, as she artistikaly replenisht her sister's cuushon.

"I wish U wer all going; but, as U can't, I shal keep mi advenchers to tel U when I cum bak. I'm shuur it's th leest I can do, when U hav been so kiend, lending me things, and helping me get redy," sed Meg, glansing round th room at th verry simpl outfit, which seemd neerly perfect in thaer ies.

"Whut did muther giv U out of th treasure-box?" askt Amy, hoo had not been prezent at th oepening of a surten seedar chest, in which Mrs. March kept a fue reliks of past splendor, as gifts for her gurls when th proper tiem caem.

"A paer of silk stokings, that prity carvd fan, and a luvly bloo sash. I wontedw th vieolet silk; but thaer isn't tiem to maek it oever, so I must be contented with mi oeld tarlatan."

"It wil luuk niesly oever mi nue muzlin scurt, and th sash wil set it off beautifully. I wish I hadn't smashed mi coral braeslet, for U miet hav had it," sed Jo, hoo luvd to giv and lend, but hoos possessions wer uezhualy too dilapidaeted to be of much uez.

"Thaer is a luvly oeld-fashond pearl set in th treasure-box; but muther sed reeal flowers wer th prityest ornament for a yung gurl, and Laurie promist to send me all I wont," replied Meg. "Now, let me see; thaer's mi nue grae wauking-suit—just curl up th fether in mi hat, Beth,—then mi poplin, for Sunday, and th small party,—it luuks hevy for spring, doesn't it? Th vieolet silk wuud be so niess; o, deer!"

"Never miend; U've got th tarlatan for th big party, and U aulwaes luuk liek an aenjel in whiet," sed Amy, brooding oever th litl stor of fienery in which her soel delieted.

"It isn't loe-nekt, and it doesn't sweep enough, but it wil hav to do. Mi bloo hous-dres luuks so wel, turnd and freshly trimmed, that I feel as if I'd got a nue wun. Mi silk sacque isn't a bit th fashon, and mi bonnet doesn't luuk liek Sallie's; I didn't 106 liek to sae anything, but I wuz sadly disapointed in mi umbrela. I toeld muther blak, with a whiet handl, but she forgot, and bought a green wun, with a yeloeish handl. It's strong and neet, so I aut not to complaen, but I noe I shal feel ashamed of it besied Annie's silk wun with a goeld top," sighed Meg, survaeing th litl umbrela with graet disfaevor.

"Chaenj it," advised Jo.

"I wun't be so sily, or hurt Marmee's feelings, when she tuuk so much paens to get mi things. It's a nonsensikal noeshon of mien, and I'm not going to giv up to it. Mi silk stokings and too paers of nue gluvs ar mi cumfort. U ar a deer, to lend me yuurs, Jo. I feel so rich, and sort of elegant, with too nue paers, and th oeld wuns cleend up for common;" and Meg tuuk a refreshing peep at her gluv-box.

"Annie Moffat has bloo and pink bows on her niet-caps; wuud U put sum on mien?" she askt, as Beth brought up a piel of snoey muzlins, fresh from Hannah's hands.

"No, I wouldn't; for th smart caps wun't mach th plaen gouns, without any trimming on them. Puur foeks shouldn't rig," sed Jo decidedly.

"I wunder if I shal ever be hapy enough to hav reeal laess on mi cloeths, and bows on mi caps?" sed Meg impaeshently.

"U sed th uther dae that U'd be perfectly hapy if U cuud oenly go to Annie Moffat's," obzurvd Beth, in her qieet wae.

"So I did! Wel, I am hapy, and I wun't fret; but it duz seem as if th mor wun gets th mor wun wonts, doesn't it? Thaer, now, th traes ar redy, and everything in but mi baul-dres, which I shal leev for muther to pak," sed Meg, cheering up, as she glanst from th haf-fild trunk to th meny-times prest and mended whiet tarlatan, which she called her "baul-dres," with an important aer.

Th next dae wuz fien, and Meg departed, in stiel, for a fortniet of novelty and plezher. Mrs. March had consented to th vizit rather reluktantly, feering that Margaret wuud cum bak mor discontented than she went. But she had begd so hard, and Sallie had promist to taek guud caer of her, and a litl plezher seemd 107 so delietful after a winter of urksum wurk, that th muther yeelded, and th dauter went to taek her furst taest of fashonabl lief.

Th Moffats wer verry fashonabl, and simpl Meg wuz rather daunted, at furst, by th splendor of th hous and th eleganss of its ocuepants. But thae wer kiendly peepl, in spiet of th frivolus lief thae led, and soon put thaer guessed at her eez. Perhaps Meg felt, without understanding whi, that thae wer not particularly cultivaeted or intelijent peepl, and that all thaer gilding cuud not qiet conceal th ordinaery mateerial of which thae wer maed. It surtenly wuz agreeabl to faer sumptuously, driev in a fien carrej, waer her best frok every dae, and do nuthing but enjoy herself. It suited her exaktly; and soon she began to imitaet th maners and conversation of thoes about her; to put on litl aers and graeses, uez French phrases, crimp her haer, taek in her dreses, and tauk about th fashons as wel as she cuud. Th mor she saw of Annie Moffat's prity things, th mor she envied her, and sighed to be rich. Hoem now luukt baer and dizmal as she thaut of it, wurk groo harder than ever, and she felt that she wuz a verry destitoot and much-injerd gurl, in spiet of th nue gluvs and silk stokings.

She had not much tiem for repiening, however, for th three yung gurls wer busily employed in "having a guud tiem." Thae shopt, waukt, roed, and called all dae; went to theeaters and operas, or frolikt at hoem in th evening; for Annie had meny frends, and knew how to entertain them. Her oelder sisters wer verry fien yung laedys, and wun wuz engaejd, which wuz extreemly interesting and roemantik, Meg thaut. Mr. Moffat wuz a fat, joly oeld jentlman, hoo knew her faather; and Mrs. Moffat, a fat, joly oeld laedy, hoo tuuk as graet a fansy to Meg as her dauter had dun. Every wun peted her; and "Daezy," as thae called her, wuz in a faer wae to hav her hed turnd.

When th evening for th "small party" caem, she found that th poplin wouldn't do at all, for th uther gurls wer putting on thin dreses, and maeking themselvs verry fien indeed; so out caem th tarlatan, luuking oelder, limper, and shabbier than ever besied Sallie's crisp nue wun. Meg saw th gurls glanss at it and then at wun anuther, and her cheeks began to burn, for, with all her jentlnes, she 108 wuz verry proud. No wun sed a wurd about it, but Sallie oferd to dres her haer, and Annie to tie her sash, and Belle, th engaejd sister, praezd her whiet arms; but in thaer kiendnes Meg saw oenly pity for her poverty, and her hart felt verry hevy as she stuud by herself, whiel th others laft, chaterd, and floo about liek gauzy butterflies. Th hard, biter feeling wuz geting prity bad, when th maed brought in a box of flowers. Befor she cuud speek, Annie had th cuver off, and all wer exclaeming at th luvly roezes, heeth, and furn within.

"It's for Belle, of corss; George aulwaes sends her sum, but thees ar aultogether ravishing," cried Annie, with a graet snif.

"Thae ar for Mis March, th man sed. And heer's a noet," put in th maed, hoelding it to Meg.

"Whut fun! Hoo ar thae from? Didn't noe U had a luver," cried th gurls, fluttering about Meg in a hie staet of cueriosity and serpriez.

"Th noet is from muther, and th flowers from Laurie," sed Meg simply, yet much gratified that he had not forgoten her.

"O, indeed!" sed Annie, with a funy luuk, as Meg slipt th noet into her poket, as a sort of talisman against envy, vanity, and faulss pride; for th fue luving wurds had dun her guud, and th flowers cheerd her up by thaer buety.

Feeling aulmoest hapy again, she laed by a fue furns and roezes for herself, and qikly maed up th rest in dainty bouquets for th breasts, haer, or scurts of her frends, ofering them so pritily that Clara, th elder sister, toeld her she wuz "th sweetest litl thing she ever saw;" and thae luukt qiet charmd with her small atenshon. Sumhow th kiend akt finisht her despondensy; and when all th rest went to sho themselvs to Mrs. Moffat, she saw a hapy, briet-ied faess in th miror, as she laed her furns against her ripling haer, and fasend th roezes in th dres that didn't striek her as so verry shaby now.

She enjoyd herself verry much that evening, for she danst to her hart's content; every wun wuz verry kiend, and she had three compliments. Annie maed her sing, and sum wun sed she had a remarkably fien vois; Maejor Lincoln askt hoo "th fresh litl gurl, with 109 th buetiful ies," wuz; and Mr. Moffat insisted on dansing with her, because she "didn't daudl, but had sum spring in her," as he graesfuly exprest it. So, aultogether, she had a verry niess tiem, till she oeverhurd a bit of a conversation, which disturbs her extreemly. She wuz sitting just insied th conservatory, waeting for her partner to bring her an iess, when she hurd a vois ask, on th uther sied of th flowery waul,—

"How oeld is he?"

"Sixteen or seventeen, I should sae," replied anuther vois.

"It wuud be a grand thing for wun of thoes gurls, wouldn't it? Sallie sez thae ar verry intimat now, and th oeld man qiet doets on them."

"Mrs M. has maed her plans, I daer sae, and wil plae her cards wel, eerly as it is. Th gurl evidently doesn't think of it yet," sed Mrs. Moffat.

"She toeld that fib about her maama, as if she did noe, and culord up when th flowers caem, qiet pritily. Puur thing! she'd be so niess if she wuz oenly got up in stiel. Do U think she'd be ofended if we oferd to lend her a dres for Thursday?" askt anuther vois.

"She's proud, but I don't beleev she'd miend, for that dowdy tarlatan is all she has got. She mae teer it to-niet, and that wil be a guud excuez for ofering a deesent wun."

"We'll see. I shal ask yung Laurence, as a compliment to her, and we'll hav fun about it afterward."

Meg's partner appeared

Heer Meg's partner apeerd, to fiend her luuking much flusht and rather ajitaeted. She wuz proud, and her pride wuz uesful just then, for it helpt her hied her mortificaeshon, angger, and disgust at whut she had just hurd; for, inosent and unsuspicious as she wuz, she cuud not help understanding th gosip of her frends. She tried to forget it, but cuud not, and kept repeeting to herself, "Mrs. M. has maed her plans," "that fib about her maama," and "dowdy tarlatan," till she wuz redy to cri, and rush hoem to tel her trubls and ask for advice. As that wuz imposibl, she did her best to seem gae; and, being rather exsieted, she succeeded so wel that no wun dreemd whut an efort she wuz maeking. She wuz verry glad when it wuz all oever, and she wuz qieet in her bed, whaer she cuud think and wunder 110 and fume till her hed aekt and her hot cheeks wer coold by a fue nacheral teers. Thoes foolish, yet wel-ment wurds, had oepend a nue wurld to Meg, and much disturbs th peess of th oeld wun, in which, till now, she had livd as hapily as a chield. Her inosent frendship with Laurie wuz spoilt by th sily speeches she had oeverhurd; her faeth in her muther wuz a litl shaeken by th wurldly plans atribueted to her by Mrs. Moffat, hoo jujd others by herself; and th sensibl rezolooshon to be contented with th simpl wardrobe which suited a puur man's dauter, wuz weekend by th unnesesaery pity of gurls hoo thaut a shaby dres wun of th graetest calamities under heven.

Puur Meg had a restles niet, and got up hevy-ied, unhapy, haf rezentful tord her frends, and haf ashamed of herself for not speeking out frankly, and setting everything riet. Everybody dawdled 111 that morning, and it wuz noon befor th gurls found enerjy enough eeven to taek up thaer wuusted wurk. Sumthing in th maner of her frends struk Meg at wunss; thae treated her with mor respekt, she thaut; tuuk qiet a tender interest in whut she sed, and luukt at her with ies that plainly betraed cueriosity. All this serpriezd and flaterd her, tho she did not understand it till Mis Belle luukt up from her rieting, and sed, with a sentimental aer,—

"Daezy, deer, I've sent an invitaeshon to yuur frend, Mr. Laurence, for Thursday. We should liek to noe him, and it's oenly a proper compliment to U."

Meg culord, but a mischivus fansy to teez th gurls maed her replie demurely,—

"U ar verry kiend, but I'm afraed he wun't cum."

"Whi not, chérie?" askt Mis Belle.

"He's too oeld."

"Mi chield, whut do U meen? Whut is his aej, I beg to noe!" cried Mis Clara.

"Neerly seventy, I beleev," anserd Meg, counting stitches, to hied th merriment in her ies.

"U sli creecher! Of corss we ment th yung man," exclaemd Mis Belle, lafing.

"Thaer isn't any; Laurie is oenly a litl boy," and Meg laft aulso at th qeer luuk which th sisters exchanged as she thus descriebd her supoezd luver.

"About yuur aej," Nan sed.

"Neerer mi sister Jo's; I am seventeen in August," returnd Meg, tosing her hed.

"It's verry niess of him to send U flowers, isn't it?" sed Annie, luuking wiez about nuthing.

"Yes, he ofen duz, to all of us; for thaer hous is fuul, and we ar so fond of them. Mi muther and oeld Mr. Laurence ar frends, U noe, so it is qiet nacheral that we children should plae together;" and Meg hoept thae wuud sae no mor.

"It's evident Daezy isn't out yet," sed Mis Clara to Belle, with a nod.

112 "Qiet a pastoral staet of inosenss all round," returnd Mis Belle, with a shrug.

"I'm going out to get sum litl maters for mi gurls; can I do anything for U, yung laedys?" askt Mrs. Moffat, lumbering in, liek an elefant, in silk and laess.

"No, thank U, maa'am," replied Sallie. "I've got mi nue pink silk for Thursday, and don't wont a thing."

"Nor I,—" began Meg, but stopt, because it ocurd to her that she did wont several things, and cuud not hav them.

"Whut shal U waer?" askt Sallie.

"Mi oeld whiet wun again, if I can mend it fit to be seen; it got sadly torn last niet," sed Meg, trieing to speek qiet eezily, but feeling verry uncumfortabl.

"Whi don't U send hoem for anuther?" sed Sallie, hoo wuz not an obzurving yung laedy.

"I haeven't got any uther." It cost Meg an efort to sae that, but Sallie did not see it, and exclaemd, in aemiabl serpriez,—

"Oenly that? How funy—" She did not finish her speech, for Belle shuuk her hed at her, and broek in, saeing kiendly,—

"Not at all; whaer is th uez of having a lot of dreses when she isn't out? Thaer's no need of sending hoem, Daezy, eeven if U had a duzen, for I've got a sweet bloo silk laed away, which I've outgroen, and U shal waer it, to pleez me, wun't U, deer?"

"U ar verry kiend, but I don't miend mi oeld dres, if U don't; it duz wel enough for a litl gurl liek me," sed Meg.

"Now do let me pleez mieself by dresing U up in stiel. I admier to do it, and U'd be a reguelar litl buety, with a tuch heer and thaer. I sha'n't let any wun see U till U ar dun, and then we'll burst upon them liek Cinderella and her godmuther, going to th baul," sed Belle, in her persuasive toen.

Meg couldn't refuez th ofer so kiendly maed, for a dezier to see if she wuud be "a litl buety" after tuching up, cauzd her to accept, and forget all her former uncumfortabl feelings tords' th Moffats.

On th Thursday evening, Belle shut herself up with her maed; and, between them, thae turnd Meg into a fien laedy. Thae crimpt 113 and curld her haer, thae polished her nek and arms with sum fraegrant pouder, tucht her lips with coralline sav, to maek them reder, and Hortense wuud hav aded "a soopçon of roozh," if Meg had not rebeld. Thae laest her into a ski-bloo dres, which wuz so tight she cuud hardly breeth, and so loe in th nek that modest Meg blushed at herself in th miror. A set of silver filagree wuz aded, braeslets, neklas, brooch, and eeven eer-rings, for Hortense tied them on, with a bit of pink silk, which did not sho. A cluster of tee-roezbuds at th bosom, and a ruche, reconsield Meg to th displae of her prity whiet shoulders, and a paer of hie-heeld bloo silk boots satisfied th last wish of her hart. A laest hankerchif, a plumy fan, and a bouquet in a silver hoelder finisht her off; and Mis Belle survaed her with th satisfakshon of a litl gurl with a nuely drest dol.

"Mademezel is charmante, très jolie, is she not?" cried Hortense, clasping her hands in an affected rapcher.

"Cum and sho yuurself," sed Mis Belle, leeding th wae to th room whaer th others wer waeting.

As Meg went rusling after, with her long scurts traeling, her eer-rings tinkling, her curls waeving, and her hart beeting, she felt as if her "fun" had reealy begun at last, for th miror had plainly toeld her that she wuz "a litl buety." Her frends repeeted th pleezing phrase enthusiastically; and, for several minits, she stuud, liek th jackdaw in th faebl, enjoying her borrowed plumes, whiel th rest chaterd liek a party of magpies.

"Whiel I dres, do U dril her, Nan, in th manejment of her scurt, and thoes French heels, or she wil trip herself up. Taek yuur silver butterfly, and cach up that long curl on th left sied of her hed, Clara, and don't any of U disturb th charming wurk of mi hands," sed Belle, as she huryd away, luuking wel pleezd with her success.

"I'm afraed to go doun, I feel so qeer and stif and haf-drest," sed Meg to Sallie, as th bel rang, and Mrs. Moffat sent to ask th yung laedys to apeer at wunss.

"U don't luuk a bit liek yuurself, but U ar verry niess. I'm no-whaer besied U, for Belle has heeps of taest, and U're qiet 114 French, I ashuur U. Let yuur flowers hang; don't be so careful of them, and be shuur U don't trip," returnd Sallie, trieing not to caer that Meg wuz prityer than herself.

Asked to be introduced

Keeping that worning carefully in miend, Margaret got saefly doun staers, and saeld into th drawing-rooms, whaer th Moffats and a fue eerly guests wer asembld. She verry soon discuverd that thaer is a charm about fien cloeths which atrakts a surten clas of peepl, and secuers thaer respekt. Several yung laedys, hoo had taeken no noetis of her befor, wer verry affectionate all of a suden; several yung jentlmen, hoo had oenly staerd at her at th uther party, now not oenly staerd, but askt to be introduest, and sed all maner of foolish but agreeabl things to her; and several oeld laedys, hoo sat on soefas, and criticised th rest of th party, inqierd hoo she wuz, with an aer of interest. She hurd Mrs. Moffat replie to wun of them,—

115 "Daezy March—faather a colonel in th army—wun of our furst familys, but revurses of forchun, U noe; intimat frends of th Laurences; sweet creecher, I ashuur U; mi Ned is qiet wield about her."

"Deer me!" sed th oeld laedy, putting up her glas for anuther obzervaeshon of Meg, hoo tried to luuk as if she had not hurd, and been rather shokt at Mrs. Moffat's fibs.

Th "qeer feeling" did not pas away, but she imajind herself akting th nue part of fien laedy, and so got on prity wel, tho th tight dres gaev her a sied-aek, th traen kept geting under her feet, and she wuz in constant feer lest her eer-rings should fli off, and get lost or broeken. She wuz flurting her fan and lafing at th feebl joeks of a yung jentlman hoo tried to be wity, when she sudenly stopt lafing and luukt confuezd; for, just opozit, she saw Laurie. He wuz staering at her with undisgiezd serpriez, and disaprooval aulso, she thaut; for, tho he bowd and smield, yet sumthing in his onest ies maed her blush, and wish she had her oeld dres on. To complete her confuezhon, she saw Belle nuj Annie, and boeth glanss from her to Laurie, hoo, she wuz hapy to see, luukt unuezhualy boyish and shi.

"Sily creechers, to put such thoughts into mi hed! I wun't caer for it, or let it chaenj me a bit," thaut Meg, and rusld acros th room to shaek hands with her frend.

"I'm glad U caem, I wuz afraed U wouldn't," she sed, with her moest groen-up aer.

"Jo wontedw me to cum, and tel her how U luukt, so I did;" anserd Laurie, without turning his ies upon her, tho he haf smield at her maturnal toen.

"Whut shal U tel her?" askt Meg, fuul of cueriosity to noe his opinyon of her, yet feeling il at eez with him, for th furst tiem.

"I shal sae I didn't noe U; for U luuk so groen-up, and unliek yuurself, I'm qiet afraed of U," he sed, fumbling at his gluv-buton.

"How absurd of U! Th gurls drest me up for fun, and I rather liek it. Wouldn't Jo staer if she saw me?" sed Meg, bent on maeking him sae whether he thaut her improovd or not.

116 "Yes, I think she wuud," returnd Laurie gravely.

"Don't U liek me so?" askt Meg.

"No, I don't," wuz th blunt replie.

"Whi not?" in an anxious toen.

He glanst at her frizld hed, baer shoulders, and fantastikaly trimmed dres, with an expreshon that abasht her mor than his anser, which had not a partikl of his uezhual polietnes about it.

"I don't liek fus and fethers."

That wuz aultogether too much from a lad yungger than herself; and Meg waukt away, saeing petulantly,—

"U ar th rudest boy I ever saw."

Feeling verry much rufld, she went and stuud at a qieet windo, to cool her cheeks, for th tight dres gaev her an uncumfortably brilliant culor. As she stuud thaer, Maejor Lincoln past by; and, a mienuet after, she hurd him saeing to his muther,—

"Thae ar maeking a fool of that litl gurl; I wontedw U to see her, but thae hav spoilt her entierly; she's nuthing but a dol, to-niet."

"O, deer!" sighed Meg; "I wish I'd been sensibl, and worn mi oen things; then I should not hav disgusted uther peepl, or felt so uncumfortabl and ashamed mieself."

She leend her forhed on th cool pane, and stuud haf hiden by th curtens, never miending that her faevorit waults had begun, till sum wun tucht her; and, turning, she saw Laurie, luuking penitent, as he sed, with his verry best boe, and his hand out,—

"Pleez forgiv mi roodnes, and cum and danss with me."

"I'm afraed it wil be too disagreeabl to U," sed Meg, trieing to luuk ofended, and faeling entierly.

"Not a bit of it; I'm dieing to do it. Cum, I'll be guud; I don't liek yuur goun, but I do think U ar—just splendid;" and he waevd his hands, as if wurds faeld to expres his admeraeshon.

Meg smield and relented, and whisperd, as thae stuud waeting to cach th tiem,—

"Taek caer mi scurt don't trip U up; it's th plaeg of mi lief, and I wuz a gooss to waer it."

"Pin it round yuur nek, and then it wil be uesful," sed Laurie, 117 luuking doun at th litl bloo boots, which he evidently aproovd of.

Away thae went, fleetly and graesfuly; for, having practised at hoem, thae wer wel macht, and th blithe yung cupl wer a plezant siet to see, as thae twirled merrily round and round, feeling mor frendly than ever after thaer small tiff.

"Laurie, I wont U to do me a faevor; wil U?" sed Meg, as he stuud faning her, when her breth gaev out, which it did verry soon, tho she wuud not oen whi.

"Wun't I!" sed Laurie, with alacrity.

"Pleez don't tel them at hoem about mi dres to-niet. Thae wun't understand th joek, and it wil wury muther."

"Then whi did U do it?" sed Laurie's ies, so plainly that Meg haestily aded,—

"I shal tel them, mieself, all about it, and ''fes' to muther how sily I've been. But I'd rather do it mieself; so U'll not tel, wil U?"

"I giv U mi wurd I wun't; oenly whut shal I sae when thae ask me?"

"Just sae I luukt prity wel, and wuz having a guud tiem."

"I'll sae th furst, with all mi hart; but how about th uther? U don't luuk as if U wer having a guud tiem; ar U?" and Laurie luukt at her with an expreshon which maed her anser, in a whisper,—

"No; not just now. Don't think I'm horrid; I oenly wontedw a litl fun, but this sort doesn't pae, I fiend, and I'm geting tierd of it."

"Heer cums Ned Moffat; whut duz he wont?" sed Laurie, niting his blak brows, as if he did not regard his yung hoest in th liet of a plezant adishon to th party.

"He put his naem doun for three danses, and I supoez he's cuming for them. Whut a bor!" sed Meg, asueming a langgwid aer, which amuezd Laurie imensly.

He did not speek to her again till super-tiem, when he saw her drinking shampaen with Ned and his frend Fisher, hoo wer behaeving "liek a paer of fools," as Laurie sed to himself, for he felt 118 a brutherly sort of riet to woch oever th Marches, and fiet thaer batls whenever a defender wuz needed.

I wouldn't, Meg

"U'll hav a spliting hedaek to-morro, if U drink much of that. I wouldn't Meg; yuur muther doesn't liek it, U noe," he whisperd, leening oever her chaer, as Ned turnd to refil her glas, and Fisher stoopt to pik up her fan.

"I'm not Meg, to-niet; I'm 'a dol,' hoo duz all sorts of craezy things. To-morro I shal put away mi 'fus and fethers,' and be desperatly guud again," she anserd, with an affected litl laf.

119 "Wish to-morro wuz heer, then," muterd Laurie, wauking off, il-pleezd at th chaenj he saw in her.

Meg danst and flurted, chaterd and gigld, as th uther gurls did; after super she undertuuk th German, and blunderd thru it, neerly upseting her partner with her long scurt, and romping in a wae that scandalized Laurie, hoo luukt on and meditaeted a lecture. But he got no chanss to deliver it, for Meg kept away from him till he caem to sae guud-niet.

"Remember!" she sed, trieing to smiel, for th spliting hedaek had aulredy begun.

"Silence à laa mort," replied Laurie, with a melodramatik flurish, as he went away.

This litl bit of by-plae exsieted Annie's cueriosity; but Meg wuz too tierd for gosip, and went to bed, feeling as if she had been to a maskeraed, and hadn't enjoyd herself as much as she expected. She wuz sik all th next dae, and on Saturday went hoem, qiet uezd up with her fortniet's fun, and feeling that she had "sat in th lap of lukshery" long enough.

"It duz seem plezant to be qieet, and not hav company maners on all th tiem. Hoem is a niess plaess, tho it isn't splendid," sed Meg, luuking about her with a restful expreshon, as she sat with her muther and Jo on th Sunday evening.

"I'm glad to heer U sae so, deer, for I wuz afraed hoem wuud seem dul and puur to U, after yuur fien qorters," replied her muther, hoo had given her meny anxious luuks that dae; for mutherly ies ar qik to see any chaenj in children's faeses.

Meg had toeld her advenchers gaely, and sed oever and oever whut a charming tiem she had had; but sumthing still seemd to wae upon her spirits, and, when th yungger gurls wer gon to bed, she sat thautfuly staering at th fier, saeing litl, and luuking wuryd. As th clok struk nien, and Jo propoezd bed, Meg sudenly left her chaer, and, taeking Beth's stool, leend her elboes on her muther's nee, saeing bravely,—

"Marmee, I wont to ''fes.'"

"I thaut so; whut is it, deer?"

"Shal I go away?" askt Jo discreetly.

120 "Of corss not; don't I aulwaes tel U everything? I wuz ashamed to speek of it befor th children, but I wont U to noe all th dredful things I did at th Moffat's."

"We ar prepaerd," sed Mrs. March, smieling, but luuking a litl anxious.

"I toeld U thae drest me up, but I didn't tel U that thae pouderd and sqeezd and frizld, and maed me luuk liek a fashon-plaet. Laurie thaut I wasn't proper; I noe he did, tho he didn't sae so, and wun man called me 'a dol.' I knew it wuz sily, but thae flaterd me, and sed I wuz a buety, and qontitys of nonsenss, so I let them maek a fool of me."

"Is that all?" askt Jo, as Mrs. March luukt silently at th douncast faess of her prity dauter, and cuud not fiend it in her hart to blaem her litl folys.

"No; I drank shampaen and rompt and tried to flurt, and wuz aultogether abominabl," sed Meg self-reproechfuly.

"Thaer is sumthing mor, I think;" and Mrs. March smoothd th soft cheek, which sudenly groo roezy, as Meg anserd sloely,—

"Yes; it's verry sily, but I wont to tel it, because I haet to hav peepl sae and think such things about us and Laurie."

Then she toeld th vaerius bits of gosip she had hurd at th Moffats; and, as she spoek, Jo saw her muther foeld her lips tightly, as if il pleezd that such iedeeas should be put into Meg's inosent miend.

"Wel, if that isn't th graetest rubish I ever hurd," cried Jo indignantly. "Whi didn't U pop out and tel them so, on th spot?"

"I couldn't, it wuz so embarrassing for me. I couldn't help heering, at furst, and then I wuz so anggry and ashamed, I didn't remember that I aut to go away."

"Just waet till I see Annie Moffat, and I'll sho U how to setl such ridicuelus stuf. Th iedeea of having 'plans,' and being kiend to Laurie, because he's rich, and mae marry us by and by! Wun't he shout, when I tel him whut thoes sily things sae about us puur children?" and Jo laft, as if, on second thoughts, th thing struk her as a guud joek.

121 "If U tel Laurie, I'll never forgiv U! She mustn't, must she, muther?" sed Meg, luuking distressed.

"No; never repeet that foolish gosip, and forget it as soon as U can," sed Mrs. March gravely. "I wuz verry unwiez to let U go amung peepl of hoom I noe so litl,—kiend, I daer sae, but wurldly, il-bred, and fuul of thees vulgar iedeeas about yung peepl. I am mor sorry than I can expres for th mischif this vizit mae hav dun U, Meg."

"Don't be sorry, I wun't let it hurt me; I'll forget all th bad, and remember oenly th guud; for I did enjoy a graet deel, and thank U verry much for leting me go. I'll not be sentimental or dissatisfied, muther; I noe I'm a sily litl gurl, and I'll stae with U till I'm fit to taek caer of mieself. But it is niess to be praezd and admierd, and I can't help saeing I liek it," sed Meg, luuking haf ashamed of th confeshon.

"That is perfectly nacheral, and qiet harmles, if th lieking duz not becum a pashon, and leed wun to do foolish or unmaidenly things. Lurn to noe and value th praez which is wurth having, and to exsiet th admeraeshon of exselent peepl by being modest as wel as prity, Meg."

Margaret sat thinking a moement, whiel Jo stuud with her hands behind her, luuking boeth interested and a litl perplexed; for it wuz a nue thing to see Meg blushing and tauking about admeraeshon, luvers, and things of that sort; and Jo felt as if, duuring that fortniet, her sister had groen up amaezingly, and wuz drifting away from her into a wurld whaer she cuud not folo.

"Muther, do U hav 'plans,' as Mrs. Moffat sed?" askt Meg bashfully.

"Yes, mi deer, I hav a graet meny; all muthers do, but mien difer sumwhot from Mrs. Moffat's, I suspekt. I wil tel U sum of them, for th tiem has cum when a wurd mae set this roemantik litl hed and hart of yuurs riet, on a verry seerius subjekt. U ar yung, Meg, but not too yung to understand me; and muthers' lips ar th fittest to speek of such things to gurls liek U. Jo, yuur turn wil cum in tiem, perhaps, so lisen to mi 'plans,' and help me carry them out, if thae ar guud."

122 Jo went and sat on wun arm of th chaer, luuking as if she thaut thae wer about to join in sum verry solem affair. Hoelding a hand of eech, and woching th too yung faeses wistfuly, Mrs. March sed, in her seerius yet cheery wae,—

Holding a hand of each, Mrs. March said, &c.

"I wont mi dauters to be buetiful, accomplished, and guud; to be admierd, luvd, and respekted; to hav a hapy yooth, to be wel and wiezly marryd, and to leed uesful, plezant lievs, with as litl caer and sorro to tri them as God sees fit to send. To be luvd and choezen by a guud man is th best and sweetest thing which can hapen to a wuuman; and I sincerely hoep mi gurls mae noe this buetiful expeeri’enss. It is nacheral to think of it, Meg; riet to hoep and waet for it, and wiez to prepaer for it; so that, when th 123 hapy tiem cums, U mae feel redy for th duties and wurthy of th joy. Mi deer gurls, I am ambishus for U, but not to hav U maek a dash in th wurld,—marry rich men meerly because thae ar rich, or hav splendid houses, which ar not hoems because luv is wonting. Muny is a needful and precious thing,—and, when wel uezd, a noebl thing,—but I never wont U to think it is th furst or oenly priez to striev for. I'd rather see U puur men's wievs, if U wer hapy, beluved, contented, than qeens on throens, without self-respekt and peess."

"Puur gurls don't stand any chanss, Belle sez, unles thae put themselvs forward," sighed Meg.

"Then we'll be oeld maeds," sed Jo stoutly.

"Riet, Jo; beter be hapy oeld maeds than unhapy wievs, or unmaidenly gurls, runing about to fiend huzbands," sed Mrs. March decidedly. "Don't be trubld, Meg; poverty seldom daunts a sincere luver. Sum of th best and moest onord wimen I noe wer puur gurls, but so luv-wurthy that thae wer not alowd to be oeld maeds. Leev thees things to tiem; maek this hoem hapy, so that U mae be fit for hoems of yuur oen, if thae ar oferd U, and contented heer if thae ar not. Wun thing remember, mi gurls: muther is aulwaes redy to be yuur confidant, faather to be yuur frend; and boeth of us trust and hoep that our dauters, whether marryd or singgl, wil be th pride and cumfort of our lievs."

"We wil, Marmee, we wil!" cried boeth, with all thaer harts, as she bade them guud-niet.


X. Th P. C. and P. O.

124

X.

Th P. C. AND P. O.

As spring caem on, a nue set of amuezments becaem th fashon, and th lengthening daes gaev long afternoons for wurk and plae of all sorts. Th garden had to be put in order, and eech sister had a qorter of th litl plot to do whut she liked with. Hannah uezd to sae, "I'd noe which eech of them gardings belongd to, ef I see 'em in Chiny;" and so she miet, for th gurls' taests difered as much as thaer carrakters. Meg's had roezes and heeliotroep, murtl, and a litl orenj-tree in it. Jo's bed wuz never aliek too seezons, for she wuz aulwaes trieing experriments; this yeer it wuz to be a plantaeshon of sun-flowers, th seeds of which cheerful and aspiring plant wer to feed "Ant Cokl-top" and her family of chiks. Beth had oeld-fashond, fraegrant flowers in her garden,—sweet pees and mignonette, larkspur, pinks, panzys, and southernwood, with chikweed for th burd, and capnip for th puusys. Amy had a bower in hers,—rather small and earwiggy, but verry prity to luuk at,—with hunysukls and morning-glorys hanging thaer culord horns and bels in graesful reeths all oever it; taul, whiet lilys, delicat furns, and as meny brilliant, picturesque plants as wuud consent to blossom thaer.

Gardening, wauks, roes on th river, and flower-hunts employed th fien daes; and for raeny wuns, thae had hous divurzhons,—sum oeld, sum nue,—all mor or les orijinal. Wun of thees wuz th "P. C."; for, as seecret soesieetys wer th fashon, it wuz thaut proper to hav wun; and, as all of th gurls admierd Dickens, thae called themselvs th Pickwick Club. With a fue interupshons, thae had kept this up for a yeer, and met every Saturday evening in th big garret, on which ocaezhons th serremoenys wer as foloes: Three chaers wer araenjd in a row (noun) befor a taebl, on which wuz a lamp, aulso foer whiet badges, with a big "P. C." in diferent culors on eech, 125 and th weekly nuezpaeper, called "Th Pickwick Portfolio," to which all contributed sumthing; whiel Jo, hoo reveld in pens and ink, wuz th editor. At seven o'clok, th foer members ascended to th club-room, tied thaer badges round thaer heds, and tuuk thaer seets with graet solemnity. Meg, as th eldest, wuz Samuel Pickwick; Jo, being of a literaery turn, Augustus Snodgrass; Beth, because she wuz round and roezy, Tracy Tupman, and Amy, hoo wuz aulwaes trieing to do whut she couldn't, wuz Nathaniel Winkle. Pickwick, th prezident, red th paeper, which wuz fild with orijinal taels, poetry, loekal nues, funy advertisements, and hints, in which thae guud-naturedly remiended eech uther of thaer faults and short-comings.

Mr. Pickwick

On wun ocaezhon, Mr. Pickwick put on a paer of spektakls without any glases, rapped upon th taebl, hemd, and, having staerd hard at Mr. Snodgrass, hoo wuz tilting bak in his chaer, till he araenjd himself properly, began to red:—


126

"Th Pickwick Portfolio."

Mae 20, 18—


Poeet's Corner.


ANNIVERSARY Oed.


Again we meet to selebraet

With baj and solem riet,

Our fifty-second anniversary,

In Pickwick Haul, to-niet.


We all ar heer in perfect helth,

Nun gon from our small band;

Again we see eech wel-noen faess,

And pres eech frendly hand.


Our Pickwick, aulwaes at his poest,

With reverenss we greet,

As, spektakls on noez, he reeds

Our wel-fild weekly sheet.


Aultho he sufers from a coeld,

We joy to heer him speek,

For wurds of wizdom from him faul,

In spiet of croek or sqeek.


Oeld six-fuut Snodgrass looms on hie,

With elephantine graess,

And beems upon th company,

With broun and joevial faess.


Poeetik fier liets up his ie,

He strugls 'gainst his lot.

Behoeld ambishon on his brow,

And on his noez a blot!


Next our peaceful Tupman cums,

So roezy, plump, and sweet.

Hoo choeks with lafter at th puns,

And tumbls off his seet.


Prim litl Winkle too is heer,

With every haer in plaess,

A model of propriety,

Tho he haets to wosh his faess.


Th yeer is gon, we still ueniet

To joek and laf and red,

And tred th path of literachuur

That doth to glory leed.


Long mae our paeper prosper wel,

Our club unbroeken be,

And cuming yeers thaer blessings por

On th uesful, gae "P. C."

A. Snodgrass.


Th Maskt Marrej.

A Tael OF VENICE.


Gondola after gondola swept up to th marbl steps, and left its luvly loed to swel th brilliant throng that fild th stately hauls of Count de Adelon. Niets and laedys, elvs and paejes, munks and flower-gurls, all minggld gaely in th danss. Sweet voises and rich melody fild th aer; and so with murth and muezik th maskeraed went on.

127 "Has yuur Hienes seen th Laedy Veoela to-niet?" askt a galant troobador of th faery qeen hoo floeted doun th haul upon his arm.

"Yes; is she not luvly, tho so sad! Her dres is wel choezen, too, for in a week she weds Count Antonio, hoom she pashonatly haets."

"By mi faeth, I envy him. Yonder he cums, araed liek a briedgroom, exsept th blak mask. When that is off we shal see how he regards th faer maed hoos hart he cannot win, tho her sturn faather bestoes her hand," returnd th troobador.

"'Tis whisperd that she luvs th yung English artist hoo haunts her steps, and is spurnd by th oeld count," sed th laedy, as thae joind th danss.

Th revel wuz at its hiet when a preest apeerd, and, withdrawing th yung paer to an alcoev hung with purpl velvet, he moeshond them to neel. Instant silence fel upon th gae throng; and not a sound, but th dash of fountens or th rusl of orenj-groevs sleeping in th moonliet, broek th hush, as Count de Adelon spoek thus:—

"Mi lords and laedys, pardon th rooz by which I hav gatherd U heer to witnes th marrej of mi dauter. Faather, we waet yuur survises."

All ies turnd tord th briedal party, and a loe murmer of amaezment went thru th throng, for neether bried nor groom remoovd thaer masks. Cueriosity and wunder possessed all harts, but respekt restraend all tungs till th hoely riet wuz oever. Then th eeger spektaetors gatherd round th count, demanding an explanaeshon.

"Gladly wuud I giv it if I cuud; but I oenly noe that it wuz th whim of mi timid Veoela, and I yeelded to it. Now, mi children, let th plae end. Unmask, and reseev mi blesing."

But neether bent th nee; for th yung briedgroom replied, in a toen that startld all liseners, as th mask fel, discloezing th noebl faess of Ferdinand Devereux, th artist luver; and, leening on th breast whaer now flasht th star of an English url, wuz th luvly Veoela, raediant with joy and buety.

"Mi lord, U scornfuly bade me claem yuur dauter when I cuud boest as hie a naem and vast a forchun as th Count Antonio. I can do mor; for eeven yuur ambishus soel cannot refuez th Url of Devereux and De Vere, when he givs his ancient naem and boundless welth in return for th beluved hand of this faer laedy, now mi wief."

Th count stuud liek wun chaenjd to stoen; and, turning to th bewildered croud, Ferdinand aded, with a gae smiel of trieumf, "To U, mi galant frends, I can oenly wish that yuur wooing mae prosper as mien has dun; and that U mae all win as faer a bried as I hav, by this maskt marrej."

S. Pickwick.


Whi is th P. C. liek th Tower of Babel? It is fuul of unrooly members.


Th HISTORY OF A Sqosh.


Wunss upon a tiem a farmer planted a litl seed in his garden, and after a whiel it sprouted and becaem a vien, and bor meny sqoshes. Wun dae in October, when thae wer riep, he pikt wun and tuuk it to market. A groeser-man bought and put it in his shop. That saem morning, a litl gurl, in a broun hat and bloo dres, with a round faess and snub noez, went and bought it for her muther. She lugd it hoem, cut it up, and boild it in th big pot; masht sum of it, with sault and buter, for diner; and to th rest she aded a pint of milk, too egs, foer spoons of sugar, nutmeg, 128 and sum crakers; put it in a deep dish, and baekt it till it wuz broun and niess; and next dae it wuz eeten by a family naemd March.

T. Tupman.


Mr. Pickwick, Sur:—

I adres U upon th subjekt of sin th siner I meen is a man naemd Winkle hoo maeks trubl in his club by lafing and sumtiems wun't riet his peess in this fien paeper I hoep U wil pardon his badness and let him send a French faebl because he can't riet out of his hed as he has so meny lesons to do and no braens in fuecher I wil tri to taek tiem by th fetlock and prepaer sum wurk which wil be all commy laa fo that means all riet I am in haest as it is neerly scool tiem

Yuurs respektably,

N. Winkle.

[Th abuv is a manly and handsum acknowledgment of past misdemeenors. If our yung frend studyd punctuation, it wuud be wel.]


A SAD ACCIDENT.


On Friday last, we wer startld by a vieolent shok in our basement, foloed by cries of distress. On rushing, in a body, to th selar, we discuverd our beluved Prezident prostraet upon th flor, having tript and faulen whiel geting wuud for domestik purposes. A perfect seen of rooin met our ies; for in his faul Mr. Pickwick had plunjd his hed and shoulders into a tub of wauter, upset a keg of soft soep upon his manly form, and torn his garments badly. On being remoovd from this perilous situation, it wuz discuverd that he had suferd no injery but several broozes; and, we ar hapy to ad, is now dooing wel.

Ed.


Th PUBLIC BEREAVEMENT.


It is our paenful duty to record th suden and misteerius disapeeranss of our cherrisht frend, Mrs. Snoebaul Pat Paw. This luvly and beluved cat wuz th pet of a larj surkl of worm and admiering frends; for her buety atrakted all ies, her graeses and vurchoos endeerd her to all harts, and her lost is deeply felt by th hoel community.

When last seen, she wuz sitting at th gaet, woching th butcher's cart; and it is feerd that sum vilan, tempted by her charms, basely stoel her. Weeks hav past, but no traess of her has been discuverd; and we relinqish all hoep, tie a blak ribon to her basket, set asied her dish, and weep for her as wun lost to us forever.


A sympathizing frend sends th foloeing jem:—

A LAMENT

FOR S. B. PAT PAW.


We moern th lost of our litl pet,

And sie o'er her haples faet,

For never mor by th fier she'll sit,

Nor plae by th oeld green gaet.


Th litl graev whaer her infant sleeps,

Is 'neath th chestnut tree;

But o'er her graev we mae not weep,

We noe not whaer it mae be.


Her empty bed, her iedl baul,

Wil never see her mor;

No jentl tap, no luving purr

Is hurd at th parlor-dor.


129 Anuther cat cums after her miess,

A cat with a durty faess;

But she duz not hunt as our darling did,

Nor plae with her aery graess.


Her stelthy paws tred th verry haul

Whaer Snoebaul uezd to plae,

But she oenly spits at th dogs our pet

So galantly droev away.


She is uesful and mield, and duz her best,

But she is not faer to see;

And we cannot giv her yuur plaess, deer,

Nor wurship her as we wurship thee.

A. S.


ADVERTISEMENTS.


Mis Oranthy Bluggage, th accomplished Strong-Miended Lecturer, wil deliver her faemus Lecture on "Wuuman and Her Pozishon," at Pickwick Haul, next Saturday Evening, after th uezhual performances.


A Weekly Meeting wil be held at Kichen Plaess, to teech yung laedys how to cuuk. Hannah Broun wil prezied; and all ar invieted to atend.


Th Dustpan Soesieety wil meet on Wednesday next, and parade in th uper story of th Club Hous. All members to apeer in ueniform and shoulder thaer brooms at nien presiesly.


Mrs. Beth Bounser wil oepen her nue assortment of Dol's Milinery next week. Th laetest Paris Fashons hav arrived, and orders ar respektfuly solisited.


A Nue Plae wil apeer at th Barnville Theeater, in th corss of a fue weeks, which wil surpass anything ever seen on th American staej. "Th Greek Slaev, or Constantine th Avenger," is th naem of this thriling draama!!!


HINTS.

If S. P. didn't uez so much soep on his hands, he wouldn't aulwaes be laet at brekfast. A. S. is reqested not to whisl in th street. T. T. pleez don't forget Amy's napkin. N. W. must not fret because his dres has not nien tuks.


WEEKLY REPORT.

Meg—Guud.
Jo—Bad.
Beth—Verry guud.
Amy—Midling.


130 As th Prezident finisht reeding th paeper (which I beg leev to ashuur mi reeders is a bona fide copy of wun riten by bona fide gurls wunss upon a tiem), a round of aplauz foloed, and then Mr. Snodgrass roez to maek a propozishon.

"Mr. Prezident and jentlmen," he began, asueming a parliamentary atitued and toen, "I wish to propoez th admishon of a nue member,—wun hoo hiely dezurvs th onor, wuud be deeply graetful for it, and wuud ad imensly to th spirit of th club, th literaery value of th paeper, and be no end joly and niess. I propoez Mr. Theodore Laurence as an onoraery member of th P. C. Cum now, do hav him."

Jo's suden chaenj of toen maed th gurls laf; but all luukt rather anxious, and no wun sed a wurd, as Snodgrass tuuk his seet.

"We'll put it to voet," sed th Prezident. "All in faevor of this moeshon pleez to manifest it by saeing 'Ay.'"

A loud responss from Snodgrass, foloed, to everybody's serpriez, by a timid wun from Beth.

"Contraery miended sae 'No.'"

Meg and Amy wer contraery miended; and Mr. Winkle roez to sae, with graet eleganss, "We don't wish any boys; thae oenly joek and bounss about. This is a laedys' club, and we wish to be private and proper."

"I'm afraed he'll laf at our paeper, and maek fun of us afterward," obzurvd Pickwick, puuling th litl curl on her forhed, as she aulwaes did when doubtful.

Up roez Snodgrass, verry much in urnest. "Sur, I giv U mi wurd as a jentlman, Laurie wun't do anything of th sort. He lieks to riet, and he'll giv a toen to our contributions, and keep us from being sentimental, don't U see? We can do so litl for him, and he duz so much for us, I think th leest we can do is to ofer him a plaess heer, and maek him welcum if he cums."

This artful aloozhon to benefits confurd brought Tupman to his feet, luuking as if he had qiet maed up his miend.

"Yes, we aut to do it, eeven if we ar afraed. I sae he mae cum, and his grandpa, too, if he lieks."

This spirited burst from Beth electrified th club, and Jo left her 131 seet to shaek hands approvingly. "Now then, voet again. Everybody remember it's our Laurie, and sae 'Ay!'" cried Snodgrass exsietedly.

"Ay! ay! ay!" replied three voises at wunss.

"Guud! Bles U! Now, as thaer's nuthing liek 'taeking tiem by th fetlock,' as Winkle characteristically obzurvs, alow me to prezent th nue member;" and, to th dismae of th rest of th club, Jo throo oepen th dor of th clozet, and displaed Laurie sitting on a rag-bag, flusht and twinkling with suprest lafter.

Jo threw open the door of the closet

"U roeg! U traitor! Jo, how cuud U?" cried th three 132 gurls, as Snodgrass led her frend triumphantly forth; and, producing boeth a chaer and a baj, instauld him in a jiffy.

"Th coolness of U too rascals is amaezing," began Mr. Pickwick, trieing to get up an auful froun, and oenly succeeding in producing an aemiabl smiel. But th nue member wuz equal to th ocaezhon; and, riezing, with a graetful saluetaeshon to th Chaer, sed, in th moest engaejing maner, "Mr. Prezident and laedys,—I beg pardon, jentlmen,—alow me to introduess mieself as Sam Weller, th verry humbl survant of th club."

"Guud! guud!" cried Jo, pounding with th handl of th oeld worming-paen on which she leend.

"Mi faethful frend and noebl patron," continued Laurie, with a waev of th hand, "hoo has so flatteringly prezented me, is not to be blaemd for th baess stratejem of to-niet. I pland it, and she oenly gaev in after lots of teezing."

"Cum now, don't lae it all on yuurself; U noe I propoezd th cubord," broek in Snodgrass, hoo wuz enjoying th joek amaezingly.

"Never U miend whut she sez. I'm th rech that did it, sur," sed th nue member, with a Welleresque nod to Mr. Pickwick. "But on mi onor, I never wil do so again, and hensforth dewote mieself to th interest of this immortal club."

"Heer! heer!" cried Jo, clashing th lid of th worming-paen liek a simbal.

"Go on, go on!" aded Winkle and Tupman, whiel th Prezident bowd benignly.

"I meerly wish to sae, that as a sliet toeken of mi gratitood for th onor dun me, and as a means of promoeting frendly relaeshons between ajoining naeshons, I hav set up a poest-ofis in th hej in th loeer corner of th garden; a fien, spaeshus bilding, with padloks on th dors, and every convenience for th maels,—aulso th feemaels, if I mae be alowd th expreshon. It's th oeld martin-hous; but I've stopt up th dor, and maed th roof oepen, so it wil hoeld all sorts of things, and saev our valueable tiem. Leters, manuescripts, books, and bundles can be past in thaer; and, as eech naeshon has a kee, it wil be uncomonly niess, I fansy. Alow me to 133 prezent th club kee; and, with meny thanks for yuur faevor, taek mi seet."

Graet aplauz as Mr. Weller depozited a litl kee on th taebl, and subsided; th worming-paen clasht and waevd wieldly, and it wuz sum tiem befor order cuud be restord. A long discushon foloed, and every wun caem out serpriezing, for every wun did her best; so it wuz an unuezhualy lievly meeting, and did not ajurn till a laet our, when it broek up with three shril cheers for th nue member.

No wun ever regreted th admitanss of Sam Weller, for a mor devoeted, wel-behaevd, and joevial member no club cuud hav. He surtenly did ad "spirit" to th meetings, and "a toen" to th paeper; for his orations convulst his heerers, and his contributions wer exselent, being patriotic, classical, comikal, or dramatik, but never sentimental. Jo regarded them as wurthy of Baecon, Milton, or Shakespeare; and remodelled her oen wurks with guud efekt, she thaut.

Th P. O. wuz a capital litl institooshon, and flurisht wunderfuly, for neerly as meny qeer things past thru it as thru th reeal ofis. Trajedys and cravats, poetry and pikls, garden-seeds and long leters, muezik and jinjerbred, rubers, invitaeshons, scoldings and pupys. Th oeld jentlman liked th fun, and amuezd himself by sending od bundles, misteerius mesejes, and funy telegrams; and his gardener, hoo wuz smitten with Hannah's charms, akchualy sent a luv-leter to Jo's caer. How thae laft when th seecret caem out, never dreeming how meny luv-leters that litl poest-ofis wuud hoeld in th yeers to cum!


XI. Experriments.

134

Jo spent the morning on the river

XI.

Experriments.

"Th furst of June! Th Kings ar off to th seeshor to-morro, and I'm free. Three munths' vaecaeshon,—how I shal enjoy it!" exclaemd Meg, cuming hoem wun worm dae to fiend Jo laed upon th soefa in an uenuezhual staet of exauschon, whiel Beth tuuk off her dusty boots, and Amy maed lemonaed for th refreshment of th hoel party.

"Ant March went to-dae, for which, o, be joyful!" sed Jo. "I wuz mortaly afraed she'd ask me to go with her; if she had, I should hav felt as if I aut to do it; but Plumfield is about as gae as a church-yard, U noe, and I'd rather be excuezd. We had a flury geting th oeld laedy off, and I had a friet every tiem she spoek to me, for I wuz in such a hurry to be thru that I wuz uncomonly helpful and sweet, and feerd she'd fiend it imposibl to part from me. I qaekt till she wuz faerly in th carrej, and had a fienal friet, for, as it droev off, she popt out her hed, saeing, 'Josy-phine, 135 wun't U—?' I didn't heer any mor, for I basely turnd and fled; I did akchualy run, and whiskt round th corner, whaer I felt saef."

"Puur oeld Jo! she caem in luuking as if baers wer after her," sed Beth, as she cudld her sister's feet with a mutherly aer.

"Ant March is a reguelar samphire, is she not?" obzurvd Amy, taesting her mixcher critikaly.

"She means vampire, not see-weed; but it doesn't mater; it's too worm to be particular about wun's parts of speech," murmerd Jo.

"Whut shal U do all yuur vaecaeshon?" askt Amy, chaenjing th subjekt, with takt.

"I shal lie abed laet, and do nuthing," replied Meg, from th depths of th roking-chaer. "I've been routed up eerly all winter, and had to spend mi daes wurking for uther peepl; so now I'm going to rest and revel to mi hart's content."

"No," sed Jo; "that dozy wae wouldn't suit me. I've laed in a heep of books, and I'm going to improov mi shiening ours reeding on mi purch in th oeld apl-tree, when I'm not having l———"

"Don't sae 'larks!'" implord Amy, as a return snub for th "samphire" corekshon.

"I'll sae 'nietinggaels,' then, with Laurie; that's proper and aproepriat, sinss he's a worbler."

"Don't let us do any lesons, Beth, for a whiel, but plae all th tiem, and rest, as th gurls meen to," propoezd Amy.

"Wel, I wil, if muther doesn't miend. I wont to lurn sum nue songs, and mi children need fitting up for th sumer; thae ar dredfuly out of order, and reealy sufering for cloeths."

"Mae we, muther?" askt Meg, turning to Mrs. March, hoo sat soeing, in whut thae called "Marmee's corner."

"U mae tri yuur experriment for a week, and see how U liek it. I think by Saturday niet U wil fiend that all plae and no wurk is as bad as all wurk and no plae."

"O, deer, no! it wil be delicious, I'm shuur," sed Meg complacently.

"I now propoez a toest, as mi 'frend and pardner, Sairy Gamp,' 136 sez. Fun forever, and no grubing!" cried Jo, riezing, glas in hand, as th lemonaed went round.

Amy sat down to draw

Thae all drank it merrily, and began th experriment by lounging for th rest of th dae. Next morning, Meg did not apeer till ten o'clok; her solitaery brekfast did not taest niess, and th room seemd loenly and untiedy; for Jo had not fild th vaeses, Beth had not dusted, and Amy's books lae scaterd about. Nuthing wuz neet and plezant but "Marmee's corner," which luukt as uezhual; and thaer Meg sat, to "rest and red," which ment yaun, and imajin whut prity sumer dreses she wuud get with her salary. Jo spent th morning on th river, with Laurie, and th afternoon reeding and crieing oever "Th Wied, Wied Wurld," up in th apl-tree. Beth began by rumejing everything out of th big clozet, whaer her family rezieded; but, geting tierd befor haf dun, she left her establishment topsy-turvy, and went to her muezik, rejoising that she had no dishes to wosh. Amy araenjd her bower, put on her best whiet frok, smoothd her curls, and sat doun to draw, under th hunysukls, hoeping sum wun wuud see and inqier hoo th yung artist wuz. As no wun apeerd but an inqizitiv dady-long-legs, hoo examind her wurk with interest, she went to wauk, got caut in a shower, and caem hoem driping.

137 At tee-tiem thae compaerd noets, and all agreed that it had been a delietful, tho unuezhualy long dae. Meg, hoo went shoping in th afternoon, and got a "sweet bloo muzlin," had discuverd, after she had cut th breadths off, that it wouldn't wosh, which mis-hap maed her slietly cros. Jo had burnt th skin off her noez boeting, and got a raejing hedaek by reeding too long. Beth wuz wuryd by th confuezhon of her clozet, and th dificulty of lurning three or foer songs at wunss; and Amy deeply regreted th damej dun her frok, for Katy Broun's party wuz to be th next dae; and now, liek Flora McFlimsey, she had "nuthing to waer." But thees wer meer trifles; and thae ashuurd thaer muther that th experriment wuz wurking fienly. She smield, sed nuthing, and, with Hannah's help, did thaer neglekted wurk, keeping hoem plezant, and th domestik masheenery runing smoothly. It wuz astonishing whut a peculiar and uncumfortabl staet of things wuz produced by th "resting and reveling" process. Th daes kept geting longer and longer; th wether wuz unuezhualy vaeriabl, and so wer tempers; an unsetld feeling possessed every wun, and Saetan found plenty of mischif for th iedl hands to do. As th hiet of lukshery, Meg put out sum of her soeing, and then found tiem hang so hevily that she fel to sniping and spoiling her cloeths, in her atempts to furbish them up à laa Moffat. Jo red till her ies gaev out, and she wuz sik of books; got so fijety that eeven guud-naecherd Laurie had a qorrel with her, and so reduest in spirits that she desperatly wisht she had gon with Ant March. Beth got on prity wel, for she wuz constantly forgeting that it wuz to be all plae, and no wurk, and fel bak into her oeld waes now and then; but sumthing in th aer affected her, and, mor than wunss, her tranquillity wuz much disturbs; so much so, that, on wun ocaezhon, she akchualy shuuk puur deer Joanna, and toeld her she wuz "a friet." Amy faerd wurst of all, for her resorses wer small; and when her sisters left her to amuez and caer for herself, she soon found that accomplished and important litl self a graet burden. She didn't liek dols, faery-taels wer chieldish, and wun couldn't draw all th tiem; tee-partys didn't amount to much, neether did picnics, unles verry wel conducted. "If wun cuud hav a fien hous, fuul of niess gurls, or go travelling, th sumer wuud be 138 delietful; but to stae at hoem with three selfish sisters and a groen-up boy wuz enough to tri th paeshenss of a Boaz," complaend Mis Malaprop, after several daes devoeted to plezher, freting, and ennui.

No wun wuud oen that thae wer tierd of th experriment; but, by Friday niet, eech aknolejd to herself that she wuz glad th week wuz neerly dun. Hoeping to impres th leson mor deeply, Mrs. March, hoo had a guud deel of huemor, rezolvd to finish off th trieal in an aproepriat maner; so she gaev Hannah a holidae, and let th gurls enjoy th fuul efekt of th plae system.

When thae got up on Saturday morning, thaer wuz no fier in th kichen, no brekfast in th diening-room, and no muther anywhere to be seen.

"Mursy on us! whut has happened?" cried Jo, staering about her in dismae.

Meg ran upstaers, and soon caem bak again, luuking releevd, but rather bewildered, and a litl ashamed.

"Muther isn't sik, oenly verry tierd, and she sez she is going to stae qieetly in her room all dae, and let us do th best we can. It's a verry qeer thing for her to do, she doesn't akt a bit liek herself; but she sez it has been a hard week for her, so we mustn't grumbl, but taek caer of ourselvs."

"That's eezy enough, and I liek th iedeea; I'm aeking for sumthing to do—that is, sum nue amuezment, U noe," aded Jo qikly.

In fakt it wuz an imenss releef to them all to hav a litl wurk, and thae tuuk hoeld with a wil, but soon reealiezd th trooth of Hannah's saeing, "Houskeeping ain't no joek." Thaer wuz plenty of food in th larder, and, whiel Beth and Amy set th taebl, Meg and Jo got brekfast, wundering, as thae did so, whi survants ever taukt about hard wurk.

"I shal taek sum up to muther, tho she sed we wer not to think of her, for she'd taek caer of herself," sed Meg, hoo prezieded, and felt qiet maetronly behind th teepot.

So a trae wuz fited out befor any wun began, and taeken up, with th cuuk's compliments. Th boild tee wuz verry biter, th omelette scorcht, and th biskits spekld with saleratus; but Mrs. March 139 reseevd her repast with thanks, and laft hartily oever it after Jo wuz gon.

"Puur litl soels, thae wil hav a hard tiem, I'm afraed; but thae wun't sufer, and it wil do them guud," she sed, producing th mor palatable vieands with which she had provided herself, and dispoezing of th bad brekfast, so that thaer feelings miet not be hurt,—a mutherly litl desepshon, for which thae wer graetful.

Meny wer th complaents beloe, and graet th shagrin of th hed cuuk at her faeluers. "Never miend, I'll get th diner, and be survant; U be mistres, keep yuur hands niess, see company, and giv orders," sed Jo, hoo knew still les than Meg about cuelinarry affairs.

This obliejing ofer wuz gladly accepted; and Margaret retierd to th parlor, which she haestily put in order by whisking th liter under th soefa, and shutting th bliends, to saev th trubl of dusting. Jo, with perfect faeth in her oen powers, and a frendly dezier to maek up th qorrel, imeediatly put a noet in th ofis, invieting Laurie to diner.

"U'd beter see whut U hav got befor U think of having company," sed Meg, when informd of th hospitabl but rash akt.

"O, thaer's corned beef and plenty of potaetoes; and I shal get sum asparagus, and a lobster, 'for a relish,' as Hannah sez. We'll hav letis, and maek a salad. I don't noe how, but th book tels. I'll hav blanc-maenj and strawberrys for dezurt; and cofy, too, if U wont to be elegant."

"Don't tri too meny meses, Jo, for U can't maek anything but jinjerbred and molases candy, fit to eat. I wosh mi hands of th diner-party; and, sinss U hav askt Laurie on yuur oen responsibility, U mae just taek caer of him."

"I don't wont U to do anything but be sivil to him, and help to th puuding. U'll giv me yuur advice if I get in a mudl, wun't U?" askt Jo, rather hurt.

"Yes; but I don't noe much, exsept about bred, and a fue trifles. U had beter ask muther's leev befor U order anything," returnd Meg proodently.

140 "Of corss I shal; I'm not a fool," and Jo went off in a huf at th doubts exprest of her powers.

"Get whut U liek, and don't disturb me; I'm going out to diner, and can't wury about things at hoem," sed Mrs. March, when Jo spoek to her. "I never enjoyd houskeeping, and I'm going to taek a vaecaeshon to-dae, and red, riet, go viziting, and amuez mieself."

Th uenuezhual spektakl of her busy muther roking comfortably, and reeding, eerly in th morning, maed Jo feel as if sum nacheral phenomenon had ocurd, for an eclips, an urthqaek, or a volcanik erupshon wuud hardly hav seemd straenjer.

"Everything is out of sorts, sumhow," she sed to herself, going doun staers. "Thaer's Beth crieing; that's a shuur sien that sumthing is rong with this family. If Amy is bothering, I'll shaek her."

Feeling verry much out of sorts herself, Jo huryd into th parlor to fiend Beth sobing oever Pip, th canary, hoo lae ded in th caej, with his litl claws pathetikaly extended, as if imploring th food for wont of which he had died.

141 "It's all mi fault—I forgot him—thaer isn't a seed or a drop left. O Pip! O Pip! how cuud I be so crooel to U?" cried Beth, taeking th puur thing in her hands, and trieing to restor him.

O Pip! O Pip!

Jo peept into his haf-oepen ie, felt his litl hart, and fiending him stif and coeld, shuuk her hed, and oferd her domino-box for a cofin.

"Put him in th oven, and maebe he wil get worm and reviev," sed Amy hoepfuly.

"He's been starvd, and he sha'n't be baekt, now he's ded. I'll maek him a shroud, and he shal be berryd in th garden; and I'll never hav anuther burd, never, mi Pip! for I am too bad to oen wun," murmerd Beth, sitting on th flor with her pet foelded in her hands.

"Th fueneral shal be this afternoon, and we wil all go. Now, don't cri, Bethy; it's a pity, but nuthing goes riet this week, and Pip has had th wurst of th experriment. Maek th shroud, and lae him in mi box; and, after th diner-party, we'll hav a niess litl fueneral," sed Jo, begining to feel as if she had undertaeken a guud deel.

Leeving th others to consoel Beth, she departed to th kichen, which wuz in a moest discurejing staet of confuezhon. Putting on a big apron, she fel to wurk, and got th dishes pield up redy for woshing, when she discuverd that th fier wuz out.

"Heer's a sweet prospekt!" muterd Jo, slaming th stoev-dor oepen, and poeking vigorusly amung th cinders.

Having re-kindld th fier, she thaut she wuud go to market whiel th wauter heeted. Th wauk revievd her spirits; and, flatering herself that she had maed guud bargans, she trujd hoem again, after buying a verry yung lobster, sum verry oeld asparagus, and too boxes of asid strawberrys. By th tiem she got cleerd up, th diner arrived, and th stoev wuz red-hot. Hannah had left a paen of bred to riez, Meg had wurkt it up eerly, set it on th harth for a second riezing, and forgoten it. Meg wuz entertaining Sallie Gardiner in th parlor, when th dor floo oepen, and a floury, crocky, flusht, and dishevelled figuer apeerd, demanding tartly,—

"I sae, isn't bred 'riz' enough when it runs oever th pans?"

Sallie began to laf; but Meg noded, and lifted her iebrows 142 as hie as thae wuud go, which cauzd th apparition to vanish, and put th sour bred into th oven without further delae. Mrs. March went out, after peeping heer and thaer to see how maters went, aulso saeing a wurd of cumfort to Beth, hoo sat maeking a wiending-sheet, whiel th deer departed lae in staet in th domino-box. A straenj senss of helplessness fel upon th gurls as th grae bonnet vanisht round th corner; and despaer seezd them, when, a fue minits laeter, Mis Crocker apeerd, and sed she'd cum to diner. Now, this laedy wuz a thin, yelo spinster, with a sharp noez and inqizitiv ies, hoo saw everything, and gosipt about all she saw. Thae disliekt her, but had been taut to be kiend to her, simply because she wuz oeld and puur, and had fue frends. So Meg gaev her th eezy-chaer, and tried to entertain her, whiel she askt qeschons, criticised everything, and toeld storys of th peepl hoom she knew.

Langgwej cannot descrieb th anxieties, expeeri’enses, and exertions which Jo underwent that morning; and th diner she survd up becaem a standing joek. Feering to ask any mor advice, she did her best aloen, and discuverd that sumthing mor than enerjy and guud-wil is nesesaery to maek a cuuk. She boild th asparagus for an our, and wuz greevd to fiend th heds cuukt off and th stauks harder than ever. Th bred burnt blak; for th salad-dresing so aggravated her, that she let everything else go till she had convinced herself that she cuud not maek it fit to eat. Th lobster wuz a scarlet mistery to her, but she hamerd and poekt, till it wuz unsheld, and its meagre proporshons concealed in a groev of letis-leevs. Th potaetoes had to be huryd, not to keep th asparagus waeting, and wer not dun at last. Th blanc-maenj wuz lumpy, and th strawberrys not as riep as thae luukt, having been skilfully "deaconed."

"Wel, thae can eat beef, and bred and buter, if thae ar hunggry; oenly it's mortifying to hav to spend yuur hoel morning for nuthing," thaut Jo, as she rang th bel haf an our laeter than uezhual, and stuud, hot, tierd, and dispirited, survaeing th feest spred for Laurie, accustomed to all sorts of eleganss, and Mis Crocker, hoos cuerius ies wuud mark all faeluers, and hoos tatling tung wuud report them far and wied.

143

Miss Crocker made a wry face

Puur Jo wuud gladly hav gon under th taebl, as wun thing after anuther wuz taested and left; whiel Amy gigld, Meg luukt distressed, Mis Crocker purst up her lips, and Laurie taukt and laft with all his miet, to giv a cheerful toen to th festiv seen. Jo's wun strong pointer wuz th froot, for she had sugared it wel, and had a pitcher of rich creem to eat with it. Her hot cheeks coold a trifle, and she droo a long breth, as th prity glas plaets went round, and every wun luukt graeshusly at th litl roezy ielands floeting in a see of creem. Mis Crocker taested furst, maed a rie faess, and drank sum wauter haestily. Jo, hoo had refuezd, thinking thaer miet not be enough, for thae dwindled sadly after th piking oever, glanst at Laurie, but he wuz eating away manfuly, tho thaer wuz a sliet puker about his mouth, and he kept his ie fixed on his plaet. Amy, hoo wuz fond of delicat faer, tuuk a heeping spoonful, choekt, hid her faess in her napkin, and left th taebl precipitately.

"O, whut is it?" exclaemd Jo trembling.

"Sault insted of sugar, and th creem is sour," replied Meg, with a trajik jescher.

Jo uterd a groen, and fel bak in her chaer; remembering that she had given a last hasty poudering to th berrys out of wun of th too boxes on th kichen taebl, and had neglekted to put th milk in th refrijeraetor. She turnd scarlet, and wuz on th vurj of crieing, when she met Laurie's ies, which wuud luuk merry in spiet of his heroeik eforts; th comikal sied of th affair sudenly struk her, and she laft till th teers ran doun her cheeks. So did every wun else, eeven "Croeker," as th gurls called th oeld laedy; and th unforchunat diner ended gaely, with bred and buter, olivs and fun.

144 "I haeven't strength of miend enough to cleer up now, so we wil soeber ourselvs with a fueneral," sed Jo, as thae roez; and Mis Crocker maed redy to go, being eeger to tel th nue story at anuther frend's diner-taebl.

Thae did soeber themselvs, for Beth's saek; Laurie dug a graev under th furns in th groev, litl Pip wuz laed in, with meny teers, by his tender-hearted mistres, and cuverd with mos, whiel a reeth of vieolets and chikweed wuz hung on th stoen which bor his epitaph, compoezd by Jo, whiel she strugld with th diner:—

"Heer lies Pip March,

Hoo died th 7th of June;

Luvd and lamented sor,

And not forgoten soon."

At th concloozhon of th serremoenys, Beth retierd to her room, oevercum with emotion and lobster; but thaer wuz no plaess of repoez, for th beds wer not maed, and she found her greef much assuaged by beeting up piloes and putting things in order. Meg helpt Jo cleer away th remaens of th feest, which tuuk haf th afternoon, and left them so tierd that thae agreed to be contented with tee and toest for super. Laurie tuuk Amy to driev, which wuz a deed of charrity, for th sour creem seemd to hav had a bad efekt upon her temper. Mrs. March caem hoem to fiend th three oelder gurls hard at wurk in th midl of th afternoon; and a glanss at th clozet gaev her an iedeea of th success of wun part of th experriment.

Befor th houswievs cuud rest, several peepl called, and thaer wuz a scrambl to get redy to see them; then tee must be got, errands dun; and wun or too nesesaery bits of soeing neglekted till th last mienuet. As twilight fel, duey and still, wun by wun thae gatherd in th porch whaer th June roezes wer buding beautifully, and eech groend or sighed as she sat doun, as if tierd or trubld.

"Whut a dredful dae this has been!" begun Jo, uezhualy th furst to speek.

"It has seemd shorter than uezhual, but so uncumfortabl," sed Meg.

"Not a bit liek hoem," aded Amy.

145 "It can't seem so without Marmee and litl Pip," sighed Beth, glansing, with fuul ies, at th empty caej abuv her hed.

"Heer's muther, deer, and U shal hav anuther burd to-morro, if U wont it."

As she spoek, Mrs. March caem and tuuk her plaess amung them, luuking as if her holidae had not been much plezanter than theirs.

"Ar U satisfied with yuur experriment, gurls, or do U wont anuther week of it?" she askt, as Beth nesld up to her, and th rest turnd tord her with brietening faeses, as flowers turn tord th sun.

"I don't!" cried Jo decidedly.

"Nor I," ecoed th others.

"U think, then, that it is beter to hav a fue duties, and liv a litl for others, do U?"

"Lounging and larking doesn't pae," obzurvd Jo, shaeking her hed. "I'm tierd of it, and meen to go to wurk at sumthing riet off."

"Supoez U lurn plaen cuuking; that's a uesful accomplishment, which no wuuman should be without," sed Mrs. March, lafing inaudibly at th recolekshon of Jo's diner-party; for she had met Mis Crocker, and hurd her account of it.

"Muther, did U go away and let everything be, just to see how we'd get on?" cried Meg, hoo had had suspishons all dae.

"Yes; I wontedw U to see how th cumfort of all depends on eech dooing her shaer faethfuly. Whiel Hannah and I did yuur wurk, U got on prity wel, tho I don't think U wer verry hapy or aemiabl; so I thaut, as a litl leson, I wuud sho U whut happens when every wun thinks oenly of herself. Don't U feel that it is plezanter to help wun anuther, to hav daily duties which maek leezher sweet when it cums, and to baer and forbaer, that hoem mae be comfortable and luvly to us all?"

"We do, muther, we do!" cried th gurls.

"Then let me advise U to taek up yuur litl burdens again; for tho thae seem hevy sumtiems, thae ar guud for us, and lieten as we lurn to carry them. Wurk is hoelsum, and thaer is plenty for every wun; it keeps us from ennui and mischif, is guud for 146 helth and spirits, and givs us a senss of power and independenss beter than muny or fashon."

"We'll wurk liek bees, and luv it too; see if we don't!" sed Jo. "I'll lurn plaen cuuking for mi holidae task; and th next diner-party I hav shal be a success."

"I'll maek th set of shurts for faather, insted of leting U do it, Marmee. I can and I wil, tho I'm not fond of soeing; that wil be beter than fusing oever mi oen things, which ar plenty niess enough as thae ar," sed Meg.

"I'll do mi lesons every dae, and not spend so much tiem with mi muezik and dols. I am a stoopid thing, and aut to be studying, not plaeing," wuz Beth's rezolooshon; whiel Amy foloed thaer exampl by heroeikaly declaering, "I shal lurn to maek buton-hoels, and atend to mi parts of speech."

"Verry guud! then I am qiet satisfied with th experriment, and fansy that we shal not hav to repeet it; oenly don't go to th uther extreem, and delv liek slaevs. Hav reguelar ours for wurk and plae; maek eech dae boeth uesful and plezant, and proov that U understand th wurth of tiem by employing it wel. Then yooth wil be delietful, oeld aej wil bring fue regrets, and lief becum a buetiful success, in spiet of poverty."

"We'll remember, muther!" and thae did.

We'll work like bees

XII. Camp Laurence

147

XII.

CAMP LAURENCE.

Beth was post-mistress

Beth wuz poest-mistres, for, being moest at hoem, she cuud atend to it reguelarly, and deerly liked th daily task of unloking th litl dor and distributing th mael. Wun July dae she caem in with her hands fuul, and went about th hous leeving leters and parsels, liek th peny poest.

"Heer's yuur posy, muther! Laurie never forgets that," she sed, putting th fresh noezgae in th vaess that stuud in "Marmee's corner," and wuz kept suplied by th affectionate boy.

"Mis Meg March, wun leter and a gluv," continued Beth, delivering th artikls to her sister, hoo sat neer her muther, stitching ristbands.

"Whi, I left a paer oever thaer, and heer is oenly wun," sed Meg, luuking at th grae coton gluv.

"Didn't U drop th uther in th garden?"

"No, I'm shuur I didn't; for thaer wuz oenly wun in th ofis."

148 "I haet to hav od gluvs! Never miend, th uther mae be found. Mi leter is oenly a translaeshon of th German song I wontedw; I think Mr. Brooke did it, for this isn't Laurie's rieting."

Mrs. March glanst at Meg, hoo wuz luuking verry prity in her gingam morning-goun, with th litl curls bloeing about her forhed, and verry wuumanly, as she sat soeing at her litl wurk-taebl, fuul of tidy whiet roels; so unconshus of th thaut in her muther's miend as she soed and sung, whiel her finggers floo, and her thoughts wer busied with gurlish fansys as inosent and fresh as th panzys in her belt, that Mrs. March smield, and wuz satisfied.

"Too leters for Doktor Jo, a book, and a funy oeld hat, which cuverd th hoel poest-ofis, stuk outsied," sed Beth, lafing, as she went into th study, whaer Jo sat rieting.

"Whut a sli felo Laurie is! I sed I wisht biger hats wer th fashon, because I burn mi faess every hot dae. He sed, 'Whi miend th fashon? Waer a big hat, and be comfortable!' I sed I wuud if I had wun, and he has sent me this, to tri me. I'll waer it, for fun, and sho him I don't caer for th fashon;" and, hanging th anteek braud-brim on a bust of Plato, Jo red her leters.

Wun from her muther maed her cheeks glo and her ies fil, for it sed to her,—

"Mi deer:

"I riet a litl wurd to tel U with how much satisfakshon I woch yuur eforts to controel yuur temper. U sae nuthing about yuur trieals, faeluers, or successes, and think, perhaps, that no wun sees them but th Frend hoos help U daily ask, if I mae trust th wel-worn cuver of yuur gied-book. I, too, hav seen them all, and hartily beleev in th sincerity of yuur rezolooshon, sinss it begins to baer froot. Go on, deer, paeshently and bravely, and aulwaes beleev that no wun sympathizes mor tenderly with U than yuur luving

"Muther."

"That duz me guud! that's wurth milyons of muny and pecks of praez. O Marmee, I do tri! I wil keep on trieing, and not get tierd, sinss I hav U to help me."

149 Laeing her hed on her arms, Jo wet her litl roemanss with a fue hapy teers, for she had thaut that no wun saw and appreciated her eforts to be guud; and this assurance wuz doubly precious, doubly encurejing, because unexpekted, and from th purson hoos comendaeshon she moest valued. Feeling strongger than ever to meet and subdue her Apollyon, she pind th noet insied her frok, as a sheeld and a remiender, lest she be taeken unawaer, and proceeded to oepen her uther leter, qiet redy for eether guud or bad nues. In a big, dashing hand, Laurie roet,—

"Deer Jo,
Whut ho!

Sum English gurls and boys ar cuming to see me to-morro and I wont to hav a joly tiem. If it's fien, I'm going to pich mi tent in Longmeadow, and row (noun) up th hoel croo to lunch and croquet,—hav a fier, maek meses, jipsy fashon, and all sorts of larks. Thae ar niess peepl, and liek such things. Brooke wil go, to keep us boys steady, and Kate Vaughn wil plae propriety for th gurls. I wont U all to cum; can't let Beth off, at any priess, and noebody shal wury her. Don't bother about rashons,—I'll see to that, and everything else,—oenly do cum, thaer's a guud felo!

"In a teering hurry,
Yuurs ever, Laurie."

"Heer's richnes!" cried Jo, flieing in to tel th nues to Meg.

"Of corss we can go, muther? it wil be such a help to Laurie, for I can row (noun), and Meg see to th lunch, and th children be uesful in sum wae."

"I hoep th Vaughns ar not fien, groen-up peepl. Do U noe anything about them, Jo?" askt Meg.

"Oenly that thaer ar foer of them. Kate is oelder than U, Fred and Frank (twins) about mi aej, and a litl gurl (Graess), hoo is nien or ten. Laurie knew them abraud, and liked th boys; I fansyd, from th wae he primmed up his mouth in speeking of her, that he didn't admier Kate much."

"I'm so glad mi French print is cleen; it's just th thing, and so 150 becuming!" obzurvd Meg complacently. "Hav U anything deesent, Jo?"

"Scarlet and grae boeting suit, guud enough for me. I shal row (noun) and tramp about, so I don't wont any starch to think of. U'll cum, Bethy?"

"If U wun't let any of th boys tauk to me."

"Not a boy!"

"I liek to pleez Laurie; and I'm not afraed of Mr. Brooke, he is so kiend; but I don't wont to plae, or sing, or sae anything. I'll wurk hard, and not trubl any wun; and U'll taek caer of me, Jo, so I'll go."

"That's mi guud gurl; U do tri to fiet off yuur shienes, and I luv U for it. Fieting faults isn't eezy, as I noe; and a cheery wurd kiend of givs a lift. Thank U, muther," and Jo gaev th thin cheek a graetful kis, mor precious to Mrs. March than if it had given bak th roezy roundnes of her yooth.

"I had a box of chocolat drops, and th pikcher I wontedw to copy," sed Amy, shoeing her mael.

"And I got a noet from Mr. Laurence, asking me to cum oever and plae to him to-niet, befor th lamps ar lieted, and I shal go," aded Beth, hoos frendship with th oeld jentlman prosperd fienly.

"Now let's fli round, and do dubl duty to-dae, so that we can plae to-morro with free miends," sed Jo, prepaering to replaess her pen with a broom.

When th sun peept into th gurls' room eerly next morning, to promis them a fien dae, he saw a comikal siet. Eech had maed such preparaeshon for th fête as seemd nesesaery and proper. Meg had an extra row (noun) of litl curl-paepers acros her forhed, Jo had copiously anointed her aflikted faess with coeld creem, Beth had taeken Joanna to bed with her to atone for th approaching separaeshon, and Amy had capt th cliemax by putting a cloeths-pin on her noez, to uplift th ofending feechuur. It wuz wun of th kiend artists uez to hoeld th paeper on thaer drawing-bords, thaerfor qiet aproepriat and efektiv for th purpos to which it wuz now put. This funy spektakl apeerd to amuez th sun, for he burst out with such raedianss 151 that Jo woek up, and rouzd all her sisters by a harty laf at Amy's ornament.

Amy capped the climax by putting a clothes-pin on her nose

Sunshine and lafter wer guud oemens for a plezher party, and soon a lievly busl began in boeth houses. Beth, hoo wuz redy furst, kept reporting whut went on next dor, and enlivened her sisters' toilets by freeqent telegrams from th windo.

"Thaer goes th man with th tent! I see Mrs. Barker dooing up th lunch in a hamper and a graet basket. Now Mr. Laurence is luuking up at th ski, and th wethercok; I wish he wuud go, too. Thaer's Laurie, luuking liek a saelor,—niess boy! O, mursy me! heer's a carrej fuul of peepl—a taul laedy, a litl gurl, and too dredful boys. Wun is laem; puur thing, he's got a cruch. Laurie didn't tel us that. Be qik, gurls! it's geting laet. Whi, thaer is Ned Moffat, I do declaer. Luuk, Meg, isn't that th man hoo bowd to U wun dae, when we wer shoping?"

"So it is. How qeer that he should cum. I thaut he wuz at th Mountens. Thaer is Sallie; I'm glad she got bak in tiem. Am I all riet, Jo?" cried Meg, in a flutter.

"A reguelar daezy. Hoeld up yuur dres and put yuur hat straet; it luuks sentimental tipt that wae, and wil fli off at th furst puff. Now, then, cum on!"

152 "O Jo, U ar not going to waer that auful hat? It's too absurd! U shal not maek a gie of yuurself," remonstraeted Meg, as Jo tied doun, with a red ribon, th braud-brimmed, oeld-fashond Leghorn Laurie had sent for a joek.

"I just wil, tho, for it's capital,—so shaedy, liet, and big. It wil maek fun; and I don't miend being a gie if I'm comfortable." With that Jo marcht straet away, and th rest foloed,—a briet litl band of sisters, all luuking thaer best, in sumer suits, with hapy faeses under th jaunty hat-brims.

Laurie ran to meet, and prezent them to his frends, in th moest corjal maner. Th laun wuz th resepshon-room, and for several minits a lievly seen wuz enakted thaer. Meg wuz graetful to see that Mis Kate, tho twenty, wuz drest with a simplisity which American gurls wuud do wel to imitaet; and she wuz much flaterd by Mr. Ned's assurances that he caem especially to see her. Jo understuud whi Laurie "primmed up his mouth" when speeking of Kate, for that yung laedy had a stand-off-don't-tuch-me aer, which contrasted strongly with th free and eezy demeanor of th uther gurls. Beth tuuk an obzervaeshon of th nue boys, and desieded that th laem wun wuz not "dredful," but jentl and feebl, and she wuud be kiend to him on that account. Amy found Graess a wel-manerd, merry litl purson; and after staering dumly at wun anuther for a fue minits, thae sudenly becaem verry guud frends.

Tents, lunch, and croquet uetensils having been sent on beforehand, th party wuz soon embarked, and th too boets pushed off together, leeving Mr. Laurence waeving his hat on th shor. Laurie and Jo roed wun boet; Mr. Brooke and Ned th uther; whiel Fred Vaughn, th rieotus twin, did his best to upset boeth by padling about in a wherry liek a disturbs wauter-bug. Jo's funy hat dezurvd a voet of thanks, for it wuz of jeneral uetility; it broek th iess in th begining, by producing a laf; it creaeted qiet a refreshing breez, flaping to and fro, as she roed, and wuud maek an exselent umbrela for th hoel party, if a shower caem up, she sed. Kate luukt rather amaezd at Jo's proceedings, especially as she exclaemd "Christopher Columbus!" when she lost her or; and Laurie sed, "Mi deer felo, did I hurt U?" when he tript oever her feet in 153 taeking his plaess. But after putting up her glas to examine th qeer gurl several times, Mis Kate desieded that she wuz "od, but rather clever," and smield upon her from afar.

Mr. Laurence waving his hat

Meg, in th uther boet, wuz delietfuly situated, faess to faess with th rowers, hoo boeth admierd th prospekt, and fetherd thaer ors with uncomon "skil and dexterrity." Mr. Brooke wuz a graev, silent yung man, with handsum broun ies and a plezant vois. Meg liked his qieet maners, and considerd him a wauking encyclopædia of uesful nolej. He never taukt to her much; but he luukt at her a guud deel, and she felt shuur that he did not regard her with avurzhon. Ned, being in colej, of corss put on all th aers which Freshmen think it thaer bounden duty to asuem; he wuz not verry wiez, but verry guud-naecherd, and aultogether an exselent purson to carry on a picnic. Sallie Gardiner wuz absorbd in keeping her whiet piqué dres cleen, and chatering with th uebiqitus Fred, hoo kept Beth in constant terror by his pranks.

It wuz not far to Longmeadow; but th tent wuz picht and th wikets doun by th tiem thae arrived. A plezant green feeld, with three wied-spreding oeks in th midl, and a smooth strip of turf for croquet.

154 "Welcum to Camp Laurence!" sed th yung hoest, as thae landed, with exclamaeshons of deliet.

"Brooke is comander-in-cheef; I am commissary-jeneral; th uther feloes ar staf-ofisers; and U, laedys, ar company. Th tent is for yuur especial benefit, and that oek is yuur drawing-room; this is th mes-room, and th thurd is th camp-kichen. Now, let's hav a gaem befor it gets hot, and then we'll see about diner."

Frank, Beth, Amy, and Graess sat doun to woch th gaem plaed by th uther aet. Mr. Brooke choez Meg, Kate, and Fred; Laurie tuuk Sallie, Jo, and Ned. Th Englishers plaed wel; but th Americans plaed beter, and contested every inch of th ground as strongly as if th spirit of '76 inspired them. Jo and Fred had several skirmishes, and wunss narroely escaept hie wurds. Jo wuz thru th last wiket, and had mist th stroek, which faeluer rufld her a guud deel. Fred wuz cloez behind her, and his turn caem befor hers; he gaev a stroek, his baul hit th wiket, and stopt an inch on th rong sied. No wun wuz verry neer; and runing up to examine, he gaev it a sli nuj with his toe, which put it just an inch on th riet sied.

"I'm thru! Now, Mis Jo, I'll setl U, and get in furst," cried th yung jentlman, swinging his malet for anuther blo.

Now, Miss Jo, I'll settle you

"U pushed it; I saw U; it's mi turn now," sed Jo sharply.

"Upon mi wurd, I didn't moov it; it roeld a bit, perhaps, but that is alowd; so stand off, pleez, and let me hav a go at th staek."

"We don't cheet in America, but U can, if U chooz," sed Jo anggrily.

"Yankees ar a deel th moest triky, everybody noes. Thaer U go!" returnd Fred, croqueting her baul far away.

Jo oepend her lips to sae sumthing rood, but chekt herself in tiem, culord up to her forhed, and stuud a mienuet, hamering doun a wiket with all her miet, whiel Fred hit th staek, and declaerd himself out with much exultaeshon. She went off to get her baul, and wuz a long tiem fiending it, amung th bushes; but she caem bak, luuking cool and qieet, and waeted her turn paeshently. It tuuk 155 several stroeks to regaen th plaess she had lost; and, when she got thaer, th uther sied had neerly wun, for Kate's baul wuz th last but wun, and lae neer th staek.

"By George, it's all up with us! Guud-by, Kate. Mis Jo oes me wun, so U ar finisht," cried Fred exsietedly, as thae all droo neer to see th finish.

"Yankees hav a trik of being jenerus to thaer enemys," sed Jo, with a luuk that maed th lad reden, "especially when thae beet them," she aded, as, leeving Kate's baul untucht, she wun th gaem by a clever stroek.

Laurie throo up his hat; then rememberd that it wouldn't do to exult oever th defeet of his guests, and stopt in th midl of a cheer to whisper to his frend,—

"Guud for U, Jo! He did cheet, I saw him; we can't tel him so, but he wun't do it again, taek mi wurd for it."

Meg droo her asied, under preetenss of pining up a looss braed, and sed approvingly,—

156 "It wuz dredfuly provoeking; but U kept yuur temper, and I'm so glad, Jo."

"Don't praez me, Meg, for I cuud box his eers this mienuet. I should surtenly hav boild oever if I hadn't staed amung th netls till I got mi raej under enough to hoeld mi tung. It's simering now, so I hoep he'll keep out of mi wae," returnd Jo, bieting her lips, as she glowerd at Fred from under her big hat.

"Tiem for lunch," sed Mr. Brooke, luuking at his woch. "Commissary-jeneral, wil U maek th fier and get wauter, whiel Mis March, Mis Sallie, and I spred th taebl? Hoo can maek guud cofy?"

"Jo can," sed Meg, glad to recomend her sister. So Jo, feeling that her laet lesons in cuukery wer to do her onor, went to prezied oever th cofy-pot, whiel th children colekted dri stiks, and th boys maed a fier, and got wauter from a spring neer by. Mis Kate skecht, and Frank taukt to Beth, hoo wuz maeking litl mats of braeded rushes to surv as plaets.

Th comander-in-cheef and his aeds soon spred th taebl-cloth with an invieting arae of eetabls and drinkables, pritily decoraeted with green leevs. Jo anounst that th cofy wuz redy, and every wun setld themselvs to a harty meel; for yooth is seldom dispeptik, and exercise develops hoelsum apetiets. A verry merry lunch it wuz; for everything seemd fresh and funy, and freeqent peals of lafter startld a venerable horss hoo fed neer by. Thaer wuz a pleezing ineqolity in th taebl, which produced meny mis-haps to cups and plaets; aecorns dropt into th milk, litl blak ants partuuk of th refreshments without being invieted, and fuzy catepilars swung doun from th tree, to see whut wuz going on. Three whiet-heded children peept oever th fenss, and an objekshonabl dog barkt at them from th uther sied of th river with all his miet and maen.

A very merry lunch it was
"A verry merry lunch it wuz."—Paej 156.

"Thaer's sault heer, if U prefur it," sed Laurie, as he handed Jo a sauser of berrys.

"Thank U, I prefur spieders," she replied, fishing up too unwaery litl wuns hoo had gon to a creemy deth. "How daer U remiend me of that horrid diner-party, when yuurs is so niess in every wae?" 157 aded Jo, as thae boeth laft, and aet out of wun plaet, th china having run short.

"I had an uncomonly guud tiem that dae, and haeven't got oever it yet. This is no credit to me, U noe; I don't do anything; it's U and Meg and Brooke hoo maek it go, and I'm no end obliejd to U. Whut shal we do when we can't eat any mor?" askt Laurie, feeling that his trump card had been plaed when lunch wuz oever.

"Hav gaems, till it's cooler. I brought 'Authors,' and I daer sae Mis Kate noes sumthing nue and niess. Go and ask her; she's company, and U aut to stae with her mor."

"Aren't U company too? I thaut she'd suit Brooke; but he keeps tauking to Meg, and Kate just stares at them thru that ridicuelus glas of hers. I'm going, so U needn't tri to preech propriety, for U can't do it, Jo."

Mis Kate did noe several nue gaems; and as th gurls wuud not, and th boys cuud not, eat any mor, thae all ajurnd to th drawing-room to plae "Rigmarole."

"Wun purson begins a story, any nonsenss U liek, and tels as long as he pleezes, oenly taeking caer to stop short at sum exsieting pointer, when th next taeks it up and duz th saem. It's verry funy when wel dun, and maeks a perfect jumbl of tragical comikal stuf to laf oever. Pleez start it, Mr. Brooke," sed Kate, with a comanding aer, which serpriezd Meg, hoo treated th tuetor with as much respekt as any uther jentlman.

Lieing on th gras at th feet of th too yung laedys, Mr. Brooke oebeedi’ently began th story, with th handsum broun ies steadily fixed upon th sunshiny river.

He went prancing down a quiet street

"Wunss on a tiem, a niet went out into th wurld to seek his forchun, for he had nuthing but his sord and his sheeld. He travelled a long whiel, neerly aet-and-twenty yeers, and had a hard tiem of it, till he caem to th palis of a guud oeld king, hoo had oferd a reword to any wun hoo wuud taem and traen a fien but unbroeken colt, of which he wuz verry fond. Th niet agreed to tri, and got on sloely but surely; for th colt wuz a galant felo, and soon lurnd to luv his nue master, tho he wuz freekish and wield. Every dae, when he gaev his lesons to this pet of th king's, th 158 niet roed him thru th sity; and, as he roed, he luukt everywhaer for a surten buetiful faess, which he had seen meny times in his dreems, but never found. Wun dae, as he went pransing doun a qieet street, he saw at th windo of a rooinus casl th luvly faess. He wuz delieted, inqierd hoo livd in this oeld casl, and wuz toeld that several captiv princesses wer kept thaer by a spel, and spun all dae to lae up muny to bie thaer liberty. Th niet wisht intensely that he cuud free them; but he wuz puur, and cuud oenly go by eech dae, woching for th sweet faess, and longing to see it out in th sunshine. At last, he rezolvd to get into th casl and ask how he cuud help them. He went and nokt; th graet dor floo oepen, and he beheld—"

"A ravishingly luvly laedy, hoo exclaemd, with a cri of rapcher, 'At last! at last!'" continued Kate, hoo had red French novels, and admierd th stiel. "''Tis she!' cried Count Gustave, and fel at her feet in an extasy of joy. 'O, riez!' she sed, extending a hand of marbl faernes. 'Never! till U tel me how I mae rescue U,' swore th niet, still neeling. 'Alas, mi crooel faet condems me to remaen heer till mi tyrant is destroyd.' 'Whaer is th vilan?' 'In th moev salon. Go, braev hart, and saev me from despaer.' 'I oebae, and return viktorius or ded!' With thees thriling wurds he rusht away, and flinging oepen th dor of th moev salon, wuz about to enter, when he reseevd—"

"Oh, rise," she said
A stunning blow from the big Greek lexicon

"A stuning blo from th big Greek lexsicon, which an oeld felo in a blak goun fierd at him," sed Ned. "Instantly Sur Whut's-his-naem recuverd himself, picht th tyrant out of th windo, and turnd to join th laedy, viktorius, but with a bump on his brow; 159 found th dor locked, tore up th curtens, maed a roep lader, got haf-wae doun when th lader broek, and he went hed furst into th moet, sixty feet beloe. Cuud swim liek a duk, padld round th casl till he caem to a litl dor garded by too stout feloes; nokt thaer heds together till thae crakt liek a cupl of nuts, then, by a trifling exertion of his prodijus strength, he smashed in th dor, went up a paer of stoen steps cuverd with dust a fuut thik, toeds as big as yuur fist, and spieders that wuud frieten 160 U into histerriks, Mis March. At th top of thees steps he caem plump upon a siet that tuuk his breth away and child his blud—"

"A taul figuer, all in whiet with a vael oever its faess and a lamp in its waested hand," went on Meg. "It becond, glieding noizlesly befor him doun a corridor as dark and coeld as any toom. Shadoey effigies in armor stuud on eether sied, a ded silence raend, th lamp burnd bloo, and th goestly figuer ever and anon turnd its faess tord him, shoeing th gliter of auful ies thru its whiet vael. Thae reached a curtend dor, behind which sounded luvly muezik; he sprang forward to enter, but th spekter plukt him bak, and waevd threteningly befor him a—"

He sneezed

"Snuf-box," sed Jo, in a sepulcral toen, which convulst th audi’enss. "'Thankee,' sed th niet polietly, as he tuuk a pinch, and sneezd seven times so vieolently that his hed fel off. 'Haa! haa!' laft th goest; and having peept thru th kee-hoel at th princesses spining away for deer lief, th eevil spirit pikt up her viktim and put him in a larj tin box, whaer thaer wer eleven uther niets pakt together without thaer heds, liek sardeens, hoo all roez and began to—"

"Danss a hornpiep," cut in Fred, as Jo paused for breth; "and, as thae danst, th rubbishy oeld casl turnd to a man-of-wor in fuul sael. 'Up with th jib, reef th tops'l halliards, helm hard a lee, and man th guns!' rord th capten, as a Portuguese pirate hoev in siet, with a flag blak as ink flieing from her formast. 'Go in and win, mi hearties!' sez th capten; and a tremendous fiet begun. Of corss th British beet; thae aulwaes do."

"No, thae don't!" cried Jo, asied.

The Portuguese walked the plank

161 "Having taeken th pirate capten prizoner, saeld slap oever th scooner, hoos deks wer pield with ded, and hoos lee-scuppers ran blud, for th order had been 'Cutlases, and die hard!' 'Bosen's maet, taek a bight of th flieing-jib sheet, and start this vilan if he don't confes his sins dubl qik,' sed th British capten. Th Portuguese held his tung liek a brick, and waukt th plank, whiel th joly tars cheerd liek mad. But th sli dog dived, caem up under th man-of-wor, scutld her, and doun she went, with all sael set, 'To th bottom of th see, see, see,' whaer—"

"O, graeshus! whut shal I sae?" cried Sallie, as Fred ended his rigmarole, in which he had jumbld together, pelmel, nautikal phrases and fakts, out of wun of his faevorit books. "Wel thae went to th bottom, and a niess murmaed welcumd them, but wuz much greevd on fiending th box of hedles niets, and kiendly pikld them in brien, hoeping to discuver th mistery about them; for, being a wuuman, she wuz cuerius. By and by a diver caem doun, and th murmaed sed, 'I'll giv U this box of pearls if U can taek it up;' for she wontedw to restor th puur things to lief, and couldn't raez th hevy loed herself. So th diver hoisted it up, and wuz much disapointed, on oepening it, to fiend no pearls. He left it in a graet loenly feeld, whaer it wuz found by a—"

"Litl gooss-gurl, hoo kept a hundred fat geess in th feeld," sed Amy, when Sallie's invenshon gaev out. "Th litl gurl wuz sorry for them, and askt an oeld wuuman whut she should do to help them. 'Yuur geess wil tel U, thae noe everything,' sed th oeld wuuman. So she askt whut she should uez for nue heds, sinss th oeld wuns wer lost, and all th geess oepend thaer hundred mouths and screemd—"

Will you give me a rose?

162 "'Cabbages!'" continued Laurie promptly. "'Just th thing,' sed th gurl, and ran to get twelve fien wuns from her garden. She put them on, th niets revievd at wunss, thankt her, and went on thaer wae rejoising, never noeing th diferenss, for thaer wer so meny uther heds liek them in th wurld that no wun thaut anything of it. Th niet in hoom I'm interested went bak to fiend th prity faess, and lurnd that th princesses had spun themselvs free, and all gon to be marryd, but wun. He wuz in a graet staet of miend at that; and mounting th colt, hoo stuud by him thru thik and thin, rusht to th casl to see which wuz left. Peeping oever th hej, he saw th qeen of his affections piking flowers in her garden. 'Wil U giv me a roez?' sed he. 'U must cum and get it. I can't cum to U; it isn't proper,' sed she, as sweet as huny. He tried to cliem oever th hej, but it seemd to gro hieer and hieer; then he tried to push thru, but it groo thiker and thiker, and he wuz in despaer. So he paeshently broek twig after twig, till he had maed a litl hoel, thru which he peept, saeing imploringly, 'Let me in! let me in!' But th prity prinsess did not seem to understand, for she pikt her roezes qieetly, and left him to fiet his wae in. Whether he did or not, Frank wil tel U."

"I can't; I'm not plaeing, I never do," sed Frank, dismaed at th sentimental predicament out of which he wuz to rescue th absurd cupl. Beth had disapeerd behind Jo, and Graess wuz asleep.

163 "So th puur niet is to be left stiking in th hej, is he?" askt Mr. Brooke, still woching th river, and plaeing with th wield roez in his buton-hoel.

"I ges th prinsess gaev him a posy, and oepend th gaet, after a whiel," sed Laurie, smieling to himself, as he throo aecorns at his tuetor.

"Whut a peess of nonsenss we hav maed! With praktis we miet do sumthing qiet clever. Do U noe 'Trooth'?" askt Sallie, after thae had laft oever thaer story.

"I hoep so," sed Meg soeberly.

"Th gaem, I meen?"

"Whut is it?" sed Fred.

"Whi, U piel up yuur hands, chooz a number, and draw out in turn, and th purson hoo draws at th number has to anser truly any qeschons put by th rest. It's graet fun."

"Let's tri it," sed Jo, hoo liked nue experriments.

Mis Kate and Mr. Brooke, Meg, and Ned decliend, but Fred, Sallie, Jo, and Laurie pield and droo; and th lot fel to Laurie.

"Hoo ar yuur heroes?" askt Jo.

"Grandfaather and Napoleon."

"Which laedy heer do U think prityest?" sed Sallie.

"Margaret."

"Which do U liek best?" from Fred.

"Jo, of corss."

"Whut sily qeschons U ask!" and Jo gaev a disdaenful shrug as th rest laft at Laurie's mater-of-fakt toen.

"Tri again; Trooth isn't a bad gaem," sed Fred.

"It's a verry guud wun for U," retorted Jo, in a loe vois.

Her turn caem next.

"Whut is yuur graetest fault?" askt Fred, by wae of testing in her th vurchoo he lakt himself.

"A qik temper."

"Whut do U moest wish for?" sed Laurie.

"A paer of boot-lacings," returnd Jo, gesing and defeeting his purpos.

"Not a troo anser; U must sae whut U reealy do wont moest."

164 "Jeenyus; don't U wish U cuud giv it to me, Laurie?" and she sliely smield in his disapointed faess.

"Whut vurchoos do U moest admier in a man?" askt Sallie.

"Curej and onesty."

"Now mi turn," sed Fred, as his hand caem last.

"Let's giv it to him," whisperd Laurie to Jo, hoo noded, and askt at wunss,—

"Didn't U cheet at croquet?"

"Wel, yes, a litl bit."

"Guud! Didn't U taek yuur story out of 'Th See-Lieon?'" sed Laurie.

"Rather."

"Don't U think th English naeshon perfect in every respekt?" askt Sallie.

"I should be ashamed of mieself if I didn't."

"He's a troo John Buul. Now, Mis Sallie, U shal hav a chanss without waeting to draw. I'll harro up yuur feelings furst, by asking if U don't think U ar sumthing of a flurt," sed Laurie, as Jo noded to Fred, as a sien that peess wuz declaerd.

"U impurtinent boy! of corss I'm not," exclaemd Sallie, with an aer that proovd th contraery.

"Whut do U haet moest?" askt Fred.

"Spieders and riess-puuding."

"Whut do U liek best?" askt Jo.

"Dansing and French gluvs."

"Wel, I think Trooth is a verry sily plae; let's hav a sensibl gaem of Authors, to refreshes our miends," propoezd Jo.

Ned, Frank, and th litl gurls joind in this, and, whiel it went on, th three elders sat apart, tauking. Mis Kate tuuk out her skech again, and Margaret wocht her, whiel Mr. Brooke lae on th gras, with a book, which he did not red.

"How beautifully U do it! I wish I cuud draw," sed Meg, with minggld admeraeshon and regret in her vois.

"Whi don't U lurn? I should think U had taest and talent for it," replied Mis Kate graeshusly.

"I haeven't tiem."

165 "Yuur maama prefurs uther accomplishments, I fansy. So did mien; but I proovd to her that I had talent, by taeking a fue lesons privately, and then she wuz qiet wiling I should go on. Can't U do th saem with yuur guvernes?"

"I hav nun."

"I forgot; yung laedys in America go to scool mor than with us. Verry fien scools thae ar, too, papa sez. U go to a private wun, I supoez?"

"I don't go at all; I am a guvernes mieself."

"O, indeed!" sed Mis Kate; but she miet as wel hav sed, "Deer me, how dredful!" for her toen implied it, and sumthing in her faess maed Meg culor, and wish she had not been so frank.

Mr. Brooke luukt up, and sed qikly, "Yung laedys in America luv independenss as much as thaer ansestors did, and ar admierd and respekted for suporting themselvs."

"O, yes; of corss it's verry niess and proper in them to do so. We hav meny moest respektabl and wurthy yung wimen, hoo do th saem and ar employed by th noebility, because, being th dauters of jentlmen, thae ar boeth wel-bred and accomplished, U noe," sed Mis Kate, in a patronizing toen, that hurt Meg's pride, and maed her wurk seem not oenly mor distasteful, but degraeding.

"Did th German song suit, Mis March?" inqierd Mr. Brooke, braeking an aukward pause.

"O, yes! it wuz verry sweet, and I'm much obliejd to hooever translaeted it for me;" and Meg's douncast faess brietend as she spoek.

"Don't U red German?" askt Mis Kate, with a luuk of serpriez.

"Not verry wel. Mi faather, hoo taut me, is away, and I don't get on verry fast aloen, for I've no wun to corekt mi pronunciation."

"Tri a litl now; heer is Schiller's 'Mary Stuart,' and a tuetor hoo luvs to teech," and Mr. Brooke laed his book on her lap, with an invieting smiel.

"It's so hard I'm afraed to tri," sed Meg, graetful, but bashful in th presence of th accomplished yung laedy besied her.

"I'll red a bit to encurej U;" and Mis Kate red wun of 166 th moest buetiful pasejes, in a perfectly corekt but perfectly expreshonles maner.

Mr. Brooke maed no coment, as she returnd th book to Meg, hoo sed inosently,—

"I thaut it wuz poetry."

"Sum of it is. Tri this pasej."

Thaer wuz a qeer smiel about Mr. Brooke's mouth as he oepend at puur Mary's lament.

Meg, oebeedi’ently foloeing th long gras-blaed which her nue tuetor uezd to pointer with, red sloely and timidly, unconshusly maeking poetry of th hard wurds by th soft intoenaeshon of her muezikal vois. Doun th paej went th green gied, and prezently, forgeting her lisener in th buety of th sad seen, Meg red as if aloen, giving a litl tuch of trajedy to th wurds of th unhapy qeen. If she had seen th broun ies then, she wuud hav stopt short; but she never luukt up, and th leson wuz not spoild for her.

"Verry wel indeed!" sed Mr. Brooke, as she paused, qiet ignoring her meny mistaeks, and luuking as if he did, indeed, "luv to teech."

Mis Kate put up her glas, and, having taeken a survae of th litl tableau befor her, shut her skech-book, saeing, with condescension,—

Miss Kate put up her glass

"U've a niess accent, and, in tiem, wil be a clever reeder. I advise U to lurn, for German is a valueable accomplishment to teechers. I must luuk after Graess, she is romping;" and Mis Kate stroeld away, ading to herself, with a shrug, "I didn't cum to shaperoen a guvernes, tho she is yung and prity. Whut od peepl thees Yankees ar; I'm afraed Laurie wil be qiet spoilt amung them."

"I forgot that English peepl rather turn up thaer noezes at guverneses, and don't treat them as we do," sed Meg, luuking after th retreeting figuer with an anoyd expreshon.

"Tuetors, aulso, hav rather a hard tiem of it thaer, as I noe to mi sorro. Thaer's no plaess liek America for us wurkers, Mis Margaret;" and Mr. Brooke luukt so contented and cheerful, that Meg wuz ashamed to lament her hard lot.

167 "I'm glad I liv in it then. I don't liek mi wurk, but I get a guud deel of satisfakshon out of it after all, so I wun't complaen; I oenly wish I liked teeching as U do."

"I think U wuud if U had Laurie for a pupil. I shal be verry sorry to looz him next yeer," sed Mr. Brooke, busily punching hoels in th turf.

"Going to colej, I supoez?" Meg's lips askt that qeschon, but her ies aded, "And whut becums of U?"

"Yes; it's hie tiem he went, for he is redy; and as soon as he is off, I shal turn soeljer. I am needed."

"I am glad of that!" exclaemd Meg. "I should think every yung man wuud wont to go; tho it is hard for th muthers and sisters hoo stae at hoem," she aded sorroefuly.

"I hav neether, and verry fue frends, to caer whether I liv or die," sed Mr. Brooke, rather biterly, as he absently put th ded roez in th hoel he had maed and cuverd it up, liek a litl graev.

168 "Laurie and his grandfaather wuud caer a graet deel, and we should all be verry sorry to hav any harm hapen to U," sed Meg hartily.

"Thank U; that sounds plezant," began Mr. Brooke, luuking cheerful again; but befor he cuud finish his speech, Ned, mounted on th oeld horss, caem lumbering up to displae his equestrian skil befor th yung laedys, and thaer wuz no mor qieet that dae.

"Don't U luv to ried?" askt Graess of Amy, as thae stuud resting, after a raess round th feeld with th others, led by Ned.

"I doet upon it; mi sister Meg uezd to ried when papa wuz rich, but we don't keep any horses now, exsept Ellen Tree," aded Amy, lafing.

"Tel me about Ellen Tree; is it a donky?" askt Graess cueriusly.

Ellen Tree

"Whi, U see, Jo is craezy about horses, and so am I, but we've oenly got an oeld sied-sadl, and no horss. Out in our garden is an apl-tree, that has a niess loe branch; so Jo put th sadl on it, fixed sum raens on th part that turns up, and we bounss away on Ellen Tree whenever we liek."

169 "How funy!" laft Graess. "I hav a pony at hoem, and ried neerly every dae in th park, with Fred and Kate; it's verry niess, for mi frends go too, and th Row (noun) is fuul of laedys and jentlmen."

"Deer, how charming! I hoep I shal go abraud sum dae; but I'd rather go to Rome than th Row (noun)," sed Amy, hoo had not th remoetest iedeea whut th Row (noun) wuz, and wouldn't hav askt for th wurld.

Frank, sitting just behind th litl gurls, hurd whut thae wer saeing, and pushed his cruch away from him with an impaeshent jescher as he wocht th aktiv lads going thru all sorts of comikal gymnastics. Beth, hoo wuz colekting th scaterd Author-cards, luukt up, and sed, in her shi yet frendly wae,—

"I'm afraed U ar tierd; can I do anything for U?"

"Tauk to me, pleez; it's dul, sitting by mieself," anserd Frank, hoo had evidently been uezd to being maed much of at hoem.

If he had askt her to deliver a Latin oraeshon, it wuud not hav seemd a mor imposibl task to bashful Beth; but thaer wuz no plaess to run to, no Jo to hied behind now, and th puur boy luukt so wistfuly at her, that she bravely rezolvd to tri.

"Whut do U liek to tauk about?" she askt, fumbling oever th cards, and droping haf as she tried to tie them up.

"Wel, I liek to heer about criket and boeting and hunting," sed Frank, hoo had not yet lurnd to suit his amuezments to his strength.

"Mi hart! whut shal I do? I don't noe anything about them," thaut Beth; and, forgeting th boy's misforchun in her flury, she sed, hoeping to maek him tauk, "I never saw any hunting, but I supoez U noe all about it."

"I did wunss; but I can never hunt again, for I got hurt leeping a confounded fiev-bard gaet; so thaer ar no mor horses and hounds for me," sed Frank, with a sie that maed Beth haet herself for her inosent blunder.

"Yuur deer ar much prityer than our ugly buffaloes," she sed, turning to th prairies for help, and feeling glad that she had red wun of th boys' books in which Jo delieted.

Buffaloes proovd soothing and satisfaktory; and, in her eegernes to amuez anuther, Beth forgot herself, and wuz qiet unconshus 170 of her sisters' serpriez and deliet at th uenuezhual spektakl of Beth tauking away to wun of th dredful boys, against hoom she had begd protection.

"Bles her hart! She pitys him, so she is guud to him," sed Jo, beeming at her from th croquet-ground.

"I aulwaes sed she wuz a litl saent," aded Meg, as if thaer cuud be no further dout of it.

"I haeven't hurd Frank laf so much for ever so long," sed Graess to Amy, as thae sat discusing dols, and maeking tee-sets out of th aecorn-cups.

"Mi sister Beth is a verry fastidius gurl, when she lieks to be," sed Amy, wel pleezd at Beth's success. She ment "fasinaeting," but as Graess didn't noe th exakt meening of eether wurd, "fastidius" sounded wel, and maed a guud impreshon.

An impromptoo surcus, fox and geess, and an amicabl gaem of croquet, finisht th afternoon. At sunset th tent wuz struk, hampers pakt, wikets puuld up, boets loeded, and th hoel party floeted doun th river, singing at th tops of thaer voises. Ned, geting sentimental, worbld a serenaed with th pensiv refraen,—

"Aloen, aloen, ah! wo, aloen,"

and at th liens—

"We eech ar yung, we eech hav a hart,

O, whi should we stand thus coeldly apart?"

he luukt at Meg with such a lacadaezikal expreshon that she laft outriet and spoilt his song.

"How can U be so crooel to me?" he whisperd, under cuver of a lievly corus. "U've kept cloez to that starcht-up Englishwoman all dae, and now U snub me."

"I didn't meen to; but U luukt so funy I reealy couldn't help it," replied Meg, pasing oever th furst part of his reproech; for it wuz qiet troo that she had shund him, remembering th Moffat party and th tauk after it.

Ned wuz ofended, and turnd to Sallie for consolaeshon, saeing to her rather pettishly, "Thaer isn't a bit of flurt in that gurl, is thaer?"

171 "Not a partikl; but she's a deer," returnd Sallie, defending her frend eeven whiel confesing her short-comings.

"She's not a striken deer, any wae," sed Ned, trieing to be wity, and succeeding as wel as verry yung jentlmen uezhualy do.

On th laun, whaer it had gatherd, th litl party separaeted with corjal guud-niets and guud-byes, for th Vaughns wer going to Canada. As th foer sisters went hoem thru th garden, Mis Kate luukt after them, saeing, without th patronizing toen in her vois, "In spiet of thaer demonstrativ maners, American gurls ar verry niess when wun noes them."

"I qiet agree with U," sed Mr. Brooke.

Tail-piece

XIII. Casls in th Aer.

172

Swinging to and fro in his hammock

XIII.

Casls IN Th Aer.

Laurie lae lugzhuriusly swinging to and fro in his hamok, wun worm September afternoon, wundering whut his naebors wer about, but too laezy to go and fiend out. He wuz in wun of his moods; for th dae had been boeth unprofitabl and unsatisfaktory, and he wuz wishing he cuud liv it oever again. Th hot wether maed him indolent, and he had shurkt his studys, tried Mr. Brooke's paeshenss to th utmoest, displeezd his grandfaather by practising haf th afternoon, frietend th maed-survants haf out of thaer wits, by mischivusly hinting that wun of his dogs wuz going mad, and, after hie wurds with th staebl-man about sum fansyd neglekt of his horss, he 173 had flung himself into his hamok, to fume oever th stoopidity of th wurld in jeneral, till th peess of th luvly dae qieeted him in spiet of himself. Staering up into th green gloom of th horss-chestnut trees abuv him, he dreemd dreems of all sorts, and wuz just imajining himself tosing on th oeshan, in a voyej round th wurld, when th sound of voises brought him ashore in a flash. Peeping thru th meshes of th hamok, he saw th Marches cuming out, as if bound on sum expedishon.

"Whut in th wurld ar thoes gurls about now?" thaut Laurie, oepening his sleepy ies to taek a guud luuk, for thaer wuz sumthing rather peculiar in th apeeranss of his naebors. Eech wor a larj, flaping hat, a broun linen pouch slung oever wun shoulder, and carried a long staf. Meg had a cuushon, Jo a book, Beth a basket, and Amy a portfolio. All waukt qieetly thru th garden, out at th litl bak gaet, and began to cliem th hil that lae between th hous and river.

"Wel, that's cool!" sed Laurie to himself, "to hav a picnic and never ask me. Thae can't be going in th boet, for thae haeven't got th kee. Perhaps thae forgot it; I'll taek it to them, and see whut's going on."

Tho possessed of haf a duzen hats, it tuuk him sum tiem to fiend wun; then thaer wuz a hunt for th kee, which wuz at last discuverd in his poket; so that th gurls wer qiet out of siet when he leept th fenss and ran after them. Taeking th shortest wae to th boet-hous, he waeted for them to apeer: but no wun caem, and he went up th hil to taek an obzervaeshon. A groev of piens cuverd wun part of it, and from th hart of this green spot caem a cleerer sound than th soft sie of th piens or th drouzy churp of th crikets.

"Heer's a landscaep!" thaut Laurie, peeping thru th bushes, and luuking wied-awake and guud-naecherd aulredy.

It wuz rather a prity litl pikcher; for th sisters sat together in th shaedy nuuk, with sun and shado flikering oever them, th arroematik wiend lifting thaer haer and cooling thaer hot cheeks, and all th litl wuud-peepl going on with thaer affairs as if thees wer no straenjers, but oeld frends. Meg sat upon her cuushon, soeing daintily 174 with her whiet hands, and luuking as fresh and sweet as a roez, in her pink dres, amung th green. Beth wuz sorting th coens that lae thik under th hemlok neer by, for she maed prity things of them. Amy wuz skeching a groop of furns, and Jo wuz niting as she red aloud. A shado past oever th boy's faess as he wocht them, feeling that he aut to go away, because uninvieted; yet linggering, because hoem seemd verry loenly, and this qieet party in th wuuds moest atraktiv to his restles spirit. He stuud so still that a squirrel, busy with its harvesting, ran doun a pien cloez besied him, saw him sudenly and skipt bak, scoelding so shrily that Beth luukt up, espied th wistful faess behind th burches, and becond with a re-ashuuring smiel.

It was rather a pretty little picture

"Mae I cum in, pleez? or shal I be a bother?" he askt, advansing sloely.

Meg lifted her iebrows, but Jo scould at her defieantly, and sed, at wunss, "Of corss U mae. We should hav askt U befor, oenly we thaut U wouldn't caer for such a gurl's gaem as this."

"I aulwaes liked yuur gaems; but if Meg doesn't wont me, I'll go away."

175 "I've no objekshon, if U do sumthing; it's against th rools to be iedl heer," replied Meg, gravely but graeshusly.

"Much obliejd; I'll do anything if U'll let me stop a bit, for it's as dul as th Dezurt of Sahara doun thaer. Shal I soe, red, coen, draw, or do all at wunss? Bring on yuur baers; I'm redy," and Laurie sat doun, with a submissive expreshon delietful to behoeld.

"Finish this story whiel I set mi heel," sed Jo, handing him th book.

"Yes'm," wuz th meek anser, as he began, dooing his best to proov his gratitood for th faevor of an admishon into th "Busy Bee Soesieety."

Th story wuz not a long wun, and, when it wuz finisht, he ventured to ask a fue qeschons as a reword of merrit.

"Pleez, maa'am, cuud I inqier if this hiely instruktiv and charming institooshon is a nue wun?"

"Wuud U tel him?" askt Meg of her sisters.

"He'll laf," sed Amy warningly.

"Hoo caers?" sed Jo.

"I ges he'll liek it," aded Beth.

"Of corss I shal! I giv U mi wurd I wun't laf. Tel away, Jo, and don't be afraed."

"Th iedeea of being afraed of U! Wel, U see we uezd to plae 'Pilgrim's Progres,' and we hav been going on with it in urnest, all winter and sumer."

"Yes, I noe," sed Laurie, noding wiezly.

"Hoo toeld U?" demanded Jo.

"Spirits."

"No, I did; I wontedw to amuez him wun niet when U wer all away, and he wuz rather dizmal. He did liek it, so don't scoeld, Jo," sed Beth meekly.

"U can't keep a seecret. Never miend; it saevs trubl now."

"Go on, pleez," sed Laurie, as Jo becaem absorbd in her wurk, luuking a trifle displeezd.

"O, didn't she tel U about this nue plan of ours? Wel, we hav tried not to waest our holidae, but eech has had a task, and 176 wurkt at it with a wil. Th vaecaeshon is neerly oever, th stints ar all dun, and we ar ever so glad that we didn't daudl."

"Yes, I should think so;" and Laurie thaut regretfully of his oen iedl daes.

"Muther lieks to hav us out of dors as much as posibl; so we bring our wurk heer, and hav niess times. For th fun of it we bring our things in thees bags, waer th oeld hats, uez poels to cliem th hil, and plae pilgrims, as we uezd to do yeers ago. We call this hil th 'Delektabl Mounten,' for we can luuk far away and see th cuntry whaer we hoep to liv sum tiem."

Jo pointed, and Laurie sat up to examine; for thru an oepening in th wuud wun cuud luuk acros th wied, bloo river, th medoes on th uther sied, far oever th outscurts of th graet sity, to th green hils that roez to meet th ski. Th sun wuz loe, and th hevens gloed with th splendor of an autumn sunset. Goeld and purpl clouds lae on th hil-tops; and riezing hie into th rudy liet wer silvery whiet peeks, that shone liek th aery spiers of sum Seleschal Sity.

"How buetiful that is!" sed Laurie softly, for he wuz qik to see and feel buety of any kiend.

"It's ofen so; and we liek to woch it, for it is never th saem, but aulwaes splendid," replied Amy, wishing she cuud paent it.

"Jo tauks about th cuntry whaer we hoep to liv sum tiem,—th reeal cuntry, she means, with pigs and chikens, and haymaking. It wuud be niess, but I wish th buetiful cuntry up thaer wuz reeal, and we cuud ever go to it," sed Beth muezingly.

"Thaer is a luvlyer cuntry eeven than that, whaer we shal go, by and by, when we ar guud enough," anserd Meg, with her sweet vois.

"It seems so long to waet, so hard to do; I wont to fli away at wunss, as thoes swallows fli, and go in at that splendid gaet."

"U'll get thaer, Beth, sooner or laeter; no feer of that," sed Jo; "I'm th wun that wil hav to fiet and wurk, and cliem and waet, and maebe never get in after all."

"U'll hav me for company, if that's any cumfort. I shal hav to do a deel of travelling befor I cum in siet of yuur Seleschal 177 Sity. If I arrive laet, U'll sae a guud wurd for me, wun't U, Beth?"

Sumthing in th boy's faess trubld his litl frend; but she sed cheerfuly, with her qieet ies on th chaenjing clouds, "If peepl reealy wont to go, and reealy tri all thaer lievs, I think thae wil get in; for I don't beleev thaer ar any loks on that dor, or any guards at th gaet. I aulwaes imajin it is as it is in th pikcher, whaer th shiening wuns strech out thaer hands to welcum puur Christian as he cums up from th river."

"Wouldn't it be fun if all th casls in th aer which we maek cuud cum troo, and we cuud liv in them?" sed Jo, after a litl pause.

"I've maed such qontitys it wuud be hard to chooz which I'd hav," sed Laurie, lieing flat, and throeing coens at th squirrel hoo had betraed him.

"U'd hav to taek yuur faevorit wun. Whut is it?" askt Meg.

"If I tel mien, wil U tel yuurs?"

"Yes, if th gurls wil too."

"We wil. Now, Laurie."

"After I'd seen as much of th wurld as I wont to, I'd liek to setl in Germany, and hav just as much muezik as I chooz. I'm to be a faemus muezishan mieself, and all creaeshon is to rush to heer me; and I'm never to be botherd about muny or business, but just enjoy mieself, and liv for whut I liek. That's mi faevorit casl. Whut's yuurs, Meg?"

Margaret seemd to fiend it a litl hard to tel hers, and waevd a braek befor her faess, as if to dispurss imajinarry nats, whiel she sed sloely, "I should liek a luvly hous, fuul of all sorts of lugzhuurius things,—niess food, prity cloeths, handsum furnicher, plezant peepl, and heeps of muny. I am to be mistres of it, and manej it as I liek, with plenty of survants, so I never need wurk a bit. How I should enjoy it! for I wouldn't be iedl, but do guud, and maek every wun luv me deerly."

Waved a brake before her face

"Wouldn't U hav a master for yuur casl in th aer?" askt Laurie sliely.

"I sed 'plezant peepl,' U noe;" and Meg carefully tied up her shoo as she spoek, so that no wun saw her faess.

178 "Whi don't U sae U'd hav a splendid, wiez, guud huzband, and sum anjelik litl children? U noe yuur casl wouldn't be perfect without," sed blunt Jo, hoo had no tender fansys yet, and rather scornd roemanss, exsept in books.

"U'd hav nuthing but horses, inkstands, and novels in yuurs," anserd Meg petulantly.

"Wouldn't I, tho? I'd hav a staebl fuul of Arabian steeds, rooms pield with books, and I'd riet out of a majik inkstand, so that mi wurks should be as faemus as Laurie's muezik. I wont to do sumthing splendid befor I go into mi casl,—sumthing heroeik or wunderful, that wun't be forgoten after I'm ded. I don't noe whut, but I'm on th woch for it, and meen to astonish U all, sum dae. I think I shal riet books, and get rich and faemus: that wuud suit me, so that is mi faevorit dreem."

"Mien is to stae at hoem saef with faather and muther, and help taek caer of th family," sed Beth contentedly.

"Don't U wish for anything else?" askt Laurie.

179 "Sinss I had mi litl piano, I am perfectly satisfied. I oenly wish we mae all keep wel and be together; nuthing else."

"I hav ever so meny wishes; but th pet wun is to be an artist, and go to Rome, and do fien pikchers, and be th best artist in th hoel wurld," wuz Amy's modest dezier.

"We're an ambishus set, aren't we? Every wun of us, but Beth, wonts to be rich and faemus, and gorjus in every respekt. I do wunder if any of us wil ever get our wishes," sed Laurie, chooing gras, liek a meditaetiv caf.

"I've got th kee to mi casl in th aer; but whether I can unlok th dor remaens to be seen," obzurvd Jo misteeriusly.

"I've got th kee to mien, but I'm not alowd to tri it. Hang colej!" muterd Laurie, with an impaeshent sie.

"Heer's mien!" and Amy waevd her pensil.

"I haeven't got any," sed Meg forlornly.

"Yes, U hav," sed Laurie at wunss.

"Whaer?"

"In yuur faess."

"Nonsenss; that's of no uez."

"Waet and see if it doesn't bring U sumthing wurth having," replied th boy, lafing at th thaut of a charming litl seecret which he fansyd he knew.

Meg culord behind th braek, but askt no qeschons, and luukt acros th river with th saem expectant expreshon which Mr. Brooke had worn when he toeld th story of th niet.

"If we ar all aliev ten yeers henss, let's meet, and see how meny of us hav got our wishes, or how much neerer we ar then than now," sed Jo, aulwaes redy with a plan.

"Bles me! how oeld I shal be,—twenty-seven!" exclaemd Meg hoo felt groen up aulredy, having just reached seventeen.

"U and I shal be twenty-six, Teddy, Beth twenty-foer, and Amy twenty-too. Whut a venerable party!" sed Jo.

"I hoep I shal hav dun sumthing to be proud of by that tiem; but I'm such a laezy dog, I'm afraed I shal 'daudl,' Jo."

"U need a moetiv, muther sez; and when U get it, she is shuur U'll wurk splendidly."

180 "Is she? By Jupiter I wil, if I oenly get th chanss!" cried Laurie, sitting up with suden enerjy. "I aut to be satisfied to pleez grandfaather, and I do tri, but it's wurking against th graen, U see, and cums hard. He wonts me to be an India murchant, as he wuz, and I'd rather be shot. I haet tee and silk and spieses, and every sort of rubish his oeld ships bring, and I don't caer how soon thae go to th bottom when I oen them. Going to colej aut to satisfi him, for if I giv him foer yeers he aut to let me off from th business; but he's set, and I 've got to do just as he did, unles I braek away and pleez mieself, as mi faather did. If thaer wuz any wun left to stae with th oeld jentlman, I'd do it to-morro."

Laurie spoek exsietedly, and luukt redy to carry his thret into exsecueshon on th slightest provocaeshon; for he wuz groeing up verry fast, and, in spiet of his indolent waes, had a yung man's haetred of subjekshon, a yung man's restles longing to tri th wurld for himself.

"I advise U to sael away in wun of yuur ships, and never cum hoem again till U hav tried yuur oen wae," sed Jo, hoos imajinaeshon wuz fierd by th thaut of such a daring exploit, and hoos simpathy wuz exsieted by whut she called "Teddy's rongs."

"That's not riet, Jo; U mustn't tauk in that wae, and Laurie mustn't taek yuur bad advice. U should do just whut yuur grandfaather wishes, mi deer boy," sed Meg, in her moest maturnal toen. "Do yuur best at colej, and, when he sees that U tri to pleez him, I'm shuur he wun't be hard or unjust to U. As U sae, thaer is no wun else to stae with and luv him, and U'd never forgiv yuurself if U left him without his permishon. Don't be dizmal or fret, but do yuur duty; and U'll get yuur reword, as guud Mr. Brooke has, by being respekted and luvd."

"Whut do U noe about him?" askt Laurie, graetful for th guud advice, but objekting to th lecture, and glad to turn th conversation from himself, after his uenuezhual outbraek.

"Oenly whut yuur grandpa toeld us about him,—how he tuuk guud caer of his oen muther till she died, and wouldn't go abraud as tuetor to sum niess purson, because he wouldn't leev her; and how he 181 provides now for an oeld wuuman hoo nurst his muther; and never tels any wun, but is just as jenerus and paeshent and guud as he can be."

"So he is, deer oeld felo!" sed Laurie hartily, as Meg paused, luuking flusht and urnest with her story. "It's liek grandpa to fiend out all about him, without leting him noe, and to tel all his guudnes to others, so that thae miet liek him. Brooke couldn't understand whi yuur muther wuz so kiend to him, asking him oever with me, and treating him in her buetiful frendly wae. He thaut she wuz just perfect, and taukt about it for daes and daes, and went on about U all in flaeming stiel. If ever I do get mi wish, U see whut I'll do for Brooke."

"Begin to do sumthing now, by not plaeging his lief out," sed Meg sharply.

"How do U noe I do, mis?"

"I can aulwaes tel by his faess, when he goes away. If U hav been guud, he luuks satisfied and wauks briskly; if U hav plaegd him, he's soeber and wauks sloely, as if he wontedw to go bak and do his wurk beter."

I see him bow and smile

"Wel, I liek that! So U keep an account of mi guud and bad marks in Brooke's faess, do U? I see him boe and smiel as he pases yuur windo, but I didn't noe U'd got up a telegraf."

182 "We haeven't; don't be anggry, and o, don't tel him I sed anything! It wuz oenly to sho that I caerd how U get on, and whut is sed heer is sed in confidenss, U noe," cried Meg, much alarmd at th thaut of whut miet folo from her careless speech.

"I don't tel taels," replied Laurie, with his "hie and miety" aer, as Jo called a surten expreshon which he ocaezhonaly wor. "Oenly if Brooke is going to be a thermometer, I must miend and hav faer wether for him to report."

"Pleez don't be ofended. I didn't meen to preech or tel taels or be sily; I oenly thaut Jo wuz encurejing U in a feeling which U'd be sorry for, by and by. U ar so kiend to us, we feel as if U wer our bruther, and sae just whut we think. Forgiv me, I ment it kiendly." And Meg oferd her hand with a jescher boeth affectionate and timid.

Ashamed of his moementaery pique, Laurie sqeezd th kiend litl hand, and sed frankly, "I'm th wun to be forgiven; I'm cros, and hav been out of sorts all dae. I liek to hav U tel me mi faults and be sisterly, so don't miend if I am grumpy sumtiems; I thank U all th saem."

Bent on shoeing that he wuz not ofended, he maed himself as agreeabl as posibl,—woond coton for Meg, resieted poetry to pleez Jo, shuuk doun coens for Beth, and helpt Amy with her furns, prooving himself a fit purson to belong to th "Busy Bee Soesieety." In th midst of an animaeted discushon on th domestik habits of turtles (wun of thoes aemiabl creechers having stroeld up from th river), th faent sound of a bel wornd them that Hannah had put th tee "to draw," and thae wuud just hav tiem to get hoem to super.

"Mae I cum again?" askt Laurie.

"Yes, if U ar guud, and luv yuur book, as th boys in th primer ar toeld to do," sed Meg smieling.

"I'll tri."

"Then U mae cum, and I'll teech U to nit as th Scotchmen do; thaer's a demand for soks just now," aded Jo, waeving hers, liek a big bloo wuusted baner, as thae parted at th gaet.

183 That niet, when Beth plaed to Mr. Laurence in th twilight, Laurie, standing in th shado of th curten, lisend to th litl David, hoos simpl muezik aulwaes qieeted his moody spirit, and wocht th oeld man, hoo sat with his grae hed on his hand, thinking tender thoughts of th ded chield he had luvd so much. Remembering th conversation of th afternoon, th boy sed to himself, with th rezolv to maek th sacrifiess cheerfuly, "I'll let mi casl go, and stae with th deer oeld jentlman whiel he needs me, for I am all he has."

Tail-piece

XIV. Seecrets.

184

Jo was very busy

XIV.

Seecrets.

Jo wuz verry busy in th garret, for th October daes began to gro chily, and th afternoons wer short. For too or three ours th sun lae wormly in th hie windo, shoeing Jo seeted on th oeld soefa, rieting busily, with her paepers spred out upon a trunk befor her, whiel Scrabl, th pet rat, promenaded th beems oeverhed, accompanied by his oeldest sun, a fien yung felo, hoo wuz evidently verry proud of his whiskers. Qiet absorbd in her wurk, Jo scribld away till th last paej wuz fild, when she siend her naem with a flurish, and throo doun her pen, exclaeming,—

"Thaer, I've dun mi best! If this wun't suit I shal hav to waet till I can do beter."

185 Lieing bak on th soefa, she red th manuescript carefully thru, maeking dashes heer and thaer, and putting in meny exclamation points, which luukt liek litl balloons; then she tied it up with a smart red ribon, and sat a mienuet luuking at it with a soeber, wistful expreshon, which plainly shoed how urnest her wurk had been. Jo's desk up heer wuz an oeld tin kichen, which hung against th waul. In it she kept her paepers and a fue books, saefly shut away from Scrabl, hoo, being liekwiez of a literaery turn, wuz fond of maeking a surcuelaeting liebraery of such books as wer left in his wae, by eating th leevs. From this tin reseptakl Jo produced anuther manuescript; and, putting boeth in her poket, crept qieetly doun staers, leeving her frends to nibl her pens and taest her ink.

She put on her hat and jaket as noizlesly as posibl, and, going to th bak entry windo, got out upon th roof of a loe porch, swung herself doun to th grasy bank, and tuuk a roundabout wae to th roed. Wunss thaer, she compoezd herself, haeld a pasing omnibus, and roeld away to town, luuking verry merry and misteerius.

If any wun had been woching her, he wuud hav thaut her moovments decidedly peculiar; for, on alieting, she went off at a graet paess till she reached a surten number in a surten busy street; having found th plaess with sum dificulty, she went into th dor-wae, luukt up th durty staers, and, after standing stok still a mienuet, sudenly dived into th street, and waukt away as rapidly as she caem. This manœuvre she repeeted several times, to th graet amuezment of a blak-ied yung jentlman lounging in th windo of a bilding opozit. On returning for th thurd tiem, Jo gaev herself a shaek, puuld her hat oever her ies, and waukt up th staers, luuking as if she wer going to hav all her teeth out.

Thaer wuz a dentist's sien, amung others, which adornd th entrance, and, after staering a moement at th paer of artifishal jaws which sloely oepend and shut to draw atenshon to a fien set of teeth, th yung jentlman put on his coet, tuuk his hat, and went doun to poest himself in th opozit dor-wae, saeing, with a smiel and a shiver,—

"It's liek her to cum aloen, but if she has a bad tiem she'll need sum wun to help her hoem."

186 In ten minits Jo caem runing doun staers with a verry red faess, and th jeneral apeeranss of a purson hoo had just past thru a trieing ordeel of sum sort. When she saw th yung jentlman she luukt anything but pleezd, and past him with a nod; but he foloed, asking with an aer of simpathy,—

"Did U hav a bad tiem?"

"Not verry."

"U got thru qikly."

"Yes, thank guudnes!"

"Whi did U go aloen?"

"Didn't wont any wun to noe."

"U're th odest felo I ever saw. How meny did U hav out?"

Jo luukt at her frend as if she did not understand him; then began to laf, as if mietily amuezd at sumthing.

"Thaer ar too which I wont to hav cum out, but I must waet a week."

"Whut ar U lafing at? U ar up to sum mischif, Jo," sed Laurie, luuking mistified.

"So ar U. Whut wer U dooing, sur, up in that billiard saloon?"

"Beging yuur pardon, maa'am, it wasn't a billiard saloon, but a gymnasium, and I wuz taeking a leson in fencing."

"I'm glad of that."

"Whi?"

"U can teech me, and then when we plae Hamlet, U can be Laertes, and we'll maek a fien thing of th fencing seen."

Laurie burst out with a harty boy's laf, which maed several passers-by smiel in spiet of themselvs.

"I'll teech U whether we plae Hamlet or not; it's grand fun, and wil straeten U up capitally. But I don't beleev that wuz yuur oenly reezon for saeing 'I'm glad,' in that desieded wae; wuz it, now?"

"No, I wuz glad that U wer not in th saloon, because I hoep U never go to such plaeses. Do U?"

"Not ofen."

"I wish U wouldn't."

187 "It's no harm, Jo. I hav billiards at hoem, but it's no fun unles U hav guud plaeers; so, as I'm fond of it, I cum sumtiems and hav a gaem with Ned Moffat or sum of th uther feloes."

"O deer, I'm so sorry, for U'll get to lieking it beter and beter, and wil waest tiem and muny, and gro liek thoes dredful boys. I did hoep U'd stae respektabl, and be a satisfakshon to yuur frends," sed Jo, shaeking her hed.

"Can't a felo taek a litl inosent amuezment now and then without loozing his respektability?" askt Laurie, luuking netld.

"That depends upon how and whaer he taeks it. I don't liek Ned and his set, and wish U'd keep out of it. Muther wun't let us hav him at our hous, tho he wonts to cum; and if U gro liek him she wun't be wiling to hav us frolik together as we do now."

"Wun't she?" askt Laurie anxiously.

"No, she can't baer fashonabl yung men, and she'd shut us all up in bandboxes rather than hav us asoeshiat with them."

"Wel, she needn't get out her bandboxes yet; I'm not a fashonabl party, and don't meen to be; but I do liek harmles larks now and then, don't U?"

"Yes, noebody miends them, so lark away, but don't get wield, wil U? or thaer wil be an end of all our guud times."

"I'll be a dubl-distild saent."

"I can't baer saents: just be a simpl, onest, respektabl boy, and we'll never dezurt U. I don't noe whut I should do if U akted liek Mr. King's sun; he had plenty of muny, but didn't noe how to spend it, and got tipsy and gambled, and ran away, and forjd his faather's naem, I beleev, and wuz aultogether horrid."

"U think I'm liekly to do th saem? Much obliejd."

"No, I don't—o, deer, no!—but I heer peepl tauking about muny being such a temptaeshon, and I sumtiems wish U wer puur; I shouldn't wury then."

"Do U wury about me, Jo?"

"A litl, when U luuk moody or discontented, as U sumtiems do; for U've got such a strong wil, if U wunss get started rong, I'm afraed it wuud be hard to stop U."

Laurie waukt in silence a fue minits, and Jo wocht him, wishing 188 she had held her tung, for his ies luukt anggry, tho his lips still smield as if at her warnings.

"Ar U going to deliver lectures all th wae hoem?" he askt prezently.

"Of corss not; whi?"

"Because if U ar, I'll taek a 'bus; if U ar not, I'd liek to wauk with U, and tel U sumthing verry interesting."

"I wun't preech any mor, and I'd liek to heer th nues imensly."

"Verry wel, then; cum on. It's a seecret, and if I tel U, U must tel me yuurs."

"I haeven't got any," began Jo, but stopt sudenly, remembering that she had.

"U noe U hav,—U can't hied anything; so up and 'fes, or I wun't tel," cried Laurie.

"Is yuur seecret a niess wun?"

"O, isn't it! all about peepl U noe, and such fun! U aut to heer it, and I've been aeking to tel it this long tiem. Cum, U begin."

"U'll not sae anything about it at hoem, wil U?"

"Not a wurd."

"And U wun't teez me in private?"

"I never teez."

"Yes, U do; U get everything U wont out of peepl. I don't noe how U do it, but U ar a born wheedler."

"Thank U; fier away."

"Wel, I've left too storys with a nuezpaeper man, and he's to giv his anser next week," whisperd Jo, in her confidant's eer.

Hurrah for Miss March

"Hooraa for Mis March, th selebraeted American authoress!" cried Laurie, throeing up his hat and caching it again, to th graet deliet of too duks, foer cats, fiev hens, and haf a duzen Irish children; for thae wer out of th sity now.

"Hush! It wun't cum to anything, I daer sae; but I couldn't rest till I had tried, and I sed nuthing about it, because I didn't wont any wun else to be disapointed."

"It wun't fael. Whi, Jo, yuur storys ar wurks of Shakespeare, 189 compaerd to haf th rubish that is publisht every dae. Wun't it be fun to see them in print; and sha'n't we feel proud of our authoress?"

Jo's ies sparkld, for it is aulwaes plezant to be beleevd in; and a frend's praez is aulwaes sweeter than a duzen nuezpaeper puffs.

"Whaer's yuur seecret? Plae faer, Teddy, or I'll never beleev U again," she sed, trieing to extinggwish th brilliant hoeps that blaezd up at a wurd of encurejment.

"I mae get into a scraep for teling; but I didn't promis not to, so I wil, for I never feel eezy in mi miend till I've toeld U any plummy bit of nues I get. I noe whaer Meg's gluv is."

"Is that all?" sed Jo, luuking disapointed, as Laurie noded and twinkled, with a faess fuul of misteerius intelijenss.

"It's qiet enough for th prezent, as U'll agree when I tel U whaer it is."

"Tel, then."

Laurie bent, and whisperd three wurds in Jo's eer, which produced a comikal chaenj. She stuud and staerd at him for a mienuet, luuking boeth serpriezd and displeezd, then waukt on, saeing sharply, "How do U noe?"

"Saw it."

"Whaer?"

"Poket."

"All this tiem?"

190 "Yes; isn't that roemantik?"

"No, it's horrid."

"Don't U liek it?"

"Of corss I don't. It's ridicuelus; it wun't be alowd. Mi paeshenss! whut wuud Meg sae?"

"U ar not to tel any wun; miend that."

"I didn't promis."

"That wuz understuud, and I trusted U."

"Wel, I wun't for th prezent, any wae; but I'm disgusted, and wish U hadn't toeld me."

"I thaut U'd be pleezd."

"At th iedeea of anybody cuming to taek Meg away? No, thank U."

"U'll feel beter about it when sumbody cums to taek U away."

"I'd liek to see any wun tri it," cried Jo feersly.

"So should I!" and Laurie chukld at th iedeea.

"I don't think seecrets agree with me; I feel rumpld up in mi miend sinss U toeld me that," sed Jo, rather ungraetfuly.

"Raess doun this hil with me, and U'll be all riet," sugjested Laurie.

Jo darted away

No wun wuz in siet; th smooth roed sloept invietingly befor her; and fiending th temptaeshon irezistibl, Jo darted away, soon leeving hat and coem behind her, and scatering haer-pins as she ran. Laurie reached th goel furst, and wuz qiet satisfied with th success of his treatment; for his Atalanta caem panting up, with flieing haer, briet ies, rudy cheeks, and no siens of dissatisfaction in her faess.

191 "I wish I wuz a horss; then I cuud run for miels in this splendid aer, and not looz mi breth. It wuz capital; but see whut a gie it's maed me. Go, pik up mi things, liek a cherrub as U ar," sed Jo, droping doun under a maepl-tree, which wuz carpeting th bank with crimson leevs.

Laurie leezherly departed to recuver th lost property, and Jo bundled up her braids, hoeping no wun wuud pas by till she wuz tidy again. But sum wun did pas, and hoo should it be but Meg, luuking particularly laedyliek in her staet and festival suit, for she had been maeking calls.

"Whut in th wurld ar U dooing heer?" she askt, regarding her dishevelled sister with wel-bred serpriez.

"Geting leevs," meekly anserd Jo, sorting th roezy handfuul she had just swept up.

"And haer-pins," aded Laurie, throeing haf a duzen into Jo's lap. "Thae gro on this roed, Meg; so do coems and broun straw hats."

"U hav been runing, Jo; how cuud U? When wil U stop such romping waes?" sed Meg reproovingly, as she setld her cufs, and smoothd her haer, with which th wiend had taeken libertys.

"Never till I'm stif and oeld, and hav to uez a cruch. Don't tri to maek me gro up befor mi tiem, Meg: it's hard enough to hav U chaenj all of a suden; let me be a litl gurl as long as I can."

As she spoek, Jo bent oever th leevs to hied th trembling of her lips; for laetly she had felt that Margaret wuz fast geting to be a wuuman, and Laurie's seecret maed her dred th separaeshon which must surely cum sum tiem, and now seemd verry neer. He saw th trubl in her faess, and droo Meg's atenshon from it by asking qikly, "Whaer hav U been calling, all so fien?"

"At th Gardiners', and Sallie has been teling me all about Belle Moffat's weding. It wuz verry splendid, and thae hav gon to spend th winter in Paris. Just think how delietful that must be!"

"Do U envy her, Meg?" sed Laurie.

"I'm afraed I do."

"I'm glad of it!" muterd Jo, tieing on her hat with a jurk.

192 "Whi?" askt Meg, luuking serpriezd.

"Because if U caer much about riches, U wil never go and marry a puur man," sed Jo, frouning at Laurie, hoo wuz mutely worning her to miend whut she sed.

"I shal never 'go and marry' any wun," obzurvd Meg, wauking on with graet dignity, whiel th others foloed, lafing, whispering, skiping stoens, and "behaeving liek children," as Meg sed to herself, tho she miet hav been tempted to join them if she had not had her best dres on.

For a week or too, Jo behaevd so qeerly that her sisters wer qiet bewildered. She rusht to th dor when th postman rang; wuz rood to Mr. Brooke whenever thae met; wuud sit luuking at Meg with a wo-begone faess, ocaezhonaly jumping up to shaek, and then to kis her, in a verry misteerius maner; Laurie and she wer aulwaes maeking siens to wun anuther, and tauking about "Spred Eegls'," till th gurls declaerd thae had boeth lost thaer wits. On th second Saturday after Jo got out of th windo, Meg, as she sat soeing at her windo, wuz scandalized by th siet of Laurie chaesing Jo all oever th garden, and fienaly capchering her in Amy's bower. Whut went on thaer, Meg cuud not see; but shreeks of lafter wer hurd, foloed by th murmer of voises and a graet flaping of nuezpaepers.

"Whut shal we do with that gurl? She never wil behaev liek a yung laedy," sighed Meg, as she wocht th raess with a disaprooving faess.

"I hoep she wun't; she is so funy and deer as she is," sed Beth, hoo had never betraed that she wuz a litl hurt at Jo's having seecrets with any wun but her.

"It's verry trieing, but we never can maek her commy laa fo," aded Amy, hoo sat maeking sum nue frils for herself, with her curls tied up in a verry becuming wae,—too agreeabl things, which maed her feel unuezhualy elegant and laedyliek.

In a fue minits Jo bounst in, laed herself on th soefa, and affected to red.

Jo laid herself on the sofa and affected to read

"Hav U anything interesting thaer?" askt Meg, with condescension.

193 "Nuthing but a story; wun't amount to much, I ges," returnd Jo, carefully keeping th naem of th paeper out of siet.

"U'd beter red it aloud; that wil amuez us and keep U out of mischif," sed Amy, in her moest groen-up toen.

"Whut's th naem?" askt Beth, wundering whi Jo kept her faess behind th sheet.

"Th Rieval Paenters."

"That sounds wel; red it," sed Meg.

With a loud "Hem!" and a long breth, Jo began to red verry fast. Th gurls lisend with interest, for th tael wuz roemantik, and sumwhot pathetik, as moest of th carrakters died in th end.

"I liek that about th splendid pikcher," wuz Amy's aprooving remark, as Jo paused.

"I prefur th lovering part. Veoela and Angelo ar too of our faevorit naems; isn't that qeer?" sed Meg, wieping her ies, for th "lovering part" wuz tragical.

"Hoo roet it?" askt Beth, hoo had caut a glimps of Jo's faess.

Th reeder sudenly sat up, cast away th paeper, displaeing a flusht countenanss, and, with a funy mixcher of solemnity and exsietment, replied in a loud vois, "Yuur sister."

"U?" cried Meg, droping her wurk.

194 "It's verry guud," sed Amy critikaly.

"I knew it! I knew it! O mi Jo, I am so proud!" and Beth ran to hug her sister, and exult oever this splendid success.

Deer me, how delieted thae all wer, to be shuur! how Meg wouldn't beleev it till she saw th wurds, "Mis Josephine March," akchualy printing in th paeper; how graeshusly Amy criticised th artistik parts of th story, and oferd hints for a seeqel, which unforchunatly couldn't be carried out, as th heero and herroein wer ded; how Beth got exsieted, and skipt and sung with joy; how Hannah caem in to exclaem "Saeks aliev, wel I never!" in graet astonishment at "that Jo's doin's;" how proud Mrs. March wuz when she knew it; how Jo laft, with teers in her ies, as she declaerd she miet as wel be a peacock and dun with it; and how th "Spred Eegl" miet be sed to flap his wings triumphantly oever th Hous of March, as th paeper past from hand to hand.

"Tel us all about it." "When did it cum?" "How much did U get for it?" "Whut wil faather sae?" "Wun't Laurie laf?" cried th family, all in wun breth, as thae clusterd about Jo; for thees foolish, affectionate peepl maed a jubilee of every litl hous-hoeld joy.

"Stop jabering, gurls, and I'll tel U everything," sed Jo, wundering if Mis Burney felt any grander oever her "Evelina" than she did oever her "Rieval Paenters." Having toeld how she dispoezd of her taels, Jo aded, "And when I went to get mi anser, th man sed he liked them boeth, but didn't pae beginers, oenly let them print in his paeper, and noetist th storys. It wuz guud praktis, he sed; and when th beginers improovd, any wun wuud pae. So I let him hav th too storys, and to-dae this wuz sent to me, and Laurie caut me with it, and insisted on seeing it, so I let him; and he sed it wuz guud, and I shal riet mor, and he's going to get th next paed for, and I am so hapy, for in tiem I mae be aebl to suport mieself and help th gurls."

Jo's breth gaev out heer; and, raping her hed in th paeper, she bedewed her litl story with a fue nacheral teers; for to be independent, and urn th praez of thoes she luvd wer th deerest wishes of her hart, and this seemd to be th furst step tord that hapy end.


XV. A Telegram.

195

XV.

A TELEGRAM.

November is the most disagreeable month in the year

"November is th moest disagreeabl munth in th hoel yeer," sed Margaret, standing at th windo wun dul afternoon, luuking out at th frost-bitten garden.

"That's th reezon I wuz born in it," obzurvd Jo pensivly, qiet unconshus of th blot on her noez.

"If sumthing verry plezant should hapen now, we should think it a delietful munth," sed Beth, hoo tuuk a hoepful vue of everything, eeven November.

"I daer sae; but nuthing plezant ever duz hapen in this family," sed Meg, hoo wuz out of sorts. "We go grubing along dae after dae, without a bit of chaenj, and verry litl fun. We miet as wel be in a tredmil."

"Mi paeshenss, how bloo we ar!" cried Jo. "I don't much wunder, puur deer, for U see uther gurls having splendid times, whiel U griend, griend, yeer in and yeer out. O, don't I wish I cuud manej things for U as I do for mi herroeins! U're prity enough and guud enough aulredy, so I'd hav sum rich relaeshon leev U a forchun unexpectedly; then U'd dash out as an 196 aeres, scorn every wun hoo has slieted U, go abraud, and cum hoem mi Laedy Sumthing, in a blaez of splendor and eleganss."

"Peepl don't hav forchuns left them in that stiel now-a-daes; men hav to wurk, and wimen to marry for muny. It's a dredfuly unjust wurld," sed Meg biterly.

"Jo and I ar going to maek forchuns for U all; just waet ten yeers, and see if we don't," sed Amy, hoo sat in a corner, maeking mud pies, as Hannah called her litl clay models of burds, froot, and faeses.

"Can't waet, and I'm afraed I haeven't much faeth in ink and durt, tho I'm graetful for yuur guud intenshons."

Meg sighed, and turnd to th frost-bitten garden again; Jo groend, and leend boeth elboes on th taebl in a despondent atitued, but Amy spatted away enerjetikaly; and Beth, hoo sat at th uther windo, sed, smieling, "Too plezant things ar going to hapen riet away: Marmee is cuming doun th street, and Laurie is tramping thru th garden as if he had sumthing niess to tel."

In thae boeth caem, Mrs. March with her uezhual qeschon, "Any leter from faather, gurls?" and Laurie to sae in his persuasive wae, "Wun't sum of U cum for a driev? I've been wurking away at mathematiks till mi hed is in a mudl, and I'm going to freshen mi wits by a brisk turn. It's a dul dae, but th aer isn't bad, and I'm going to taek Brooke hoem, so it wil be gae insied, if it isn't out. Cum, Jo, U and Beth wil go, wun't U?"

"Of corss we wil."

"Much obliejd, but I'm busy;" and Meg whiskt out her wurk-basket, for she had agreed with her muther that it wuz best, for her at leest, not to driev ofen with th yung jentlman.

"We three wil be redy in a mienuet," cried Amy, runing away to wosh her hands.

"Can I do anything for U, Madam Muther?" askt Laurie, leening oever Mrs. March's chaer, with th affectionate luuk and toen he aulwaes gaev her.

"No, thank U, exsept call at th ofis, if U'll be so kiend, deer. It's our dae for a leter, and th postman hasn't been. Faather is as reguelar as th sun, but thaer's sum delae on th wae, perhaps."

197 A sharp ring interupted her, and a mienuet after Hannah caem in with a leter.

"It's wun of them horrid telegraf things, mum," she sed, handing it as if she wuz afraed it wuud exploed and do sum damej.

One of them horrid telegraph things

At th wurd "telegraf," Mrs. March snacht it, red th too liens it contained, and dropt bak into her chaer as whiet as if th litl paeper had sent a bulet to her hart. Laurie dasht doun staers for wauter, whiel Meg and Hannah suported her, and Jo red aloud, in a frietend vois,—

"Mrs. March:

"Yuur huzband is verry il. Cum at wunss.

S. Hael,

"Blank Hospital, Washington"

How still th room wuz as thae lisend breathlessly, how straenjly th dae darkend outsied, and how sudenly th hoel wurld seemd to chaenj, as th gurls gatherd about thaer muther, feeling as if all th hapynes and suport of thaer lievs wuz about to be taeken from them. Mrs. March wuz herself again direktly; red th mesej oever, and strecht out her arms to her dauters, saeing, in a toen thae never forgot, "I shal go at wunss, but it mae be too laet. O children, children, help me to baer it!"

For several minits thaer wuz nuthing but th sound of sobing in th room, minggld with broeken wurds of cumfort, tender assurances of help, and hoepful whispers that died away in teers. Puur Hannah wuz th furst to recuver, and with unconshus wizdom she set all th rest a guud exampl; for, with her, wurk wuz th panacea for moest aflikshons.

198 "Th Lord keep th deer man! I wun't waest no tiem a cryin', but git yuur things redy riet away, mum," she sed, hartily, as she wiept her faess on her apron, gaev her mistres a worm shaek of th hand with her oen hard wun, and went away, to wurk liek three wimen in wun.

"She's riet; thaer's no tiem for teers now. Be calm, gurls, and let me think."

Thae tried to be calm, puur things, as thaer muther sat up, luuking pale, but steady, and put away her greef to think and plan for them.

"Whaer's Laurie?" she askt prezently, when she had colekted her thoughts, and desieded on th furst duties to be dun.

"Heer, maa'am. O, let me do sumthing!" cried th boy, hurying from th next room, whither he had withdrawn, feeling that thaer furst sorro wuz too saecred for eeven his frendly ies to see.

"Send a telegram saeing I wil cum at wunss. Th next traen goes eerly in th morning. I'll taek that."

"Whut else? Th horses ar redy; I can go anywhere, do anything," he sed, luuking redy to fli to th ends of th urth.

"Leev a noet at Ant March's. Jo, giv me that pen and paeper."

Teering off th blank sied of wun of her nuely copyd paejes, Jo droo th taebl befor her muther, wel noeing that muny for th long, sad jurny must be borrowed, and feeling as if she cuud do anything to ad a litl to th sum for her faather.

"Now go, deer; but don't kil yuurself drieving at a desperat paess; thaer is no need of that."

Mrs. March's worning wuz evidently throen away; for fiev minits laeter Laurie tore by th windo on his oen fleet horss, rieding as if for his lief.

"Jo, run to th rooms, and tel Mrs. King that I can't cum. On th wae get thees things. I'll put them doun; thae'll be needed, and I must go prepaerd for nursing. Hospital stors ar not aulwaes guud. Beth, go and ask Mr. Laurence for a cupl of botls of oeld wien: I'm not too proud to beg for faather; he shal hav th best of everything. Amy, tel Hannah to get doun th blak trunk; and, Meg, cum and help me fiend mi things, for I'm haf bewildered."

Rieting, thinking, and direkting, all at wunss, miet wel bewilder th 199 puur laedy, and Meg begd her to sit qieetly in her room for a litl whiel, and let them wurk. Every wun scaterd liek leevs befor a gust of wiend; and th qieet, hapy hous-hoeld wuz broeken up as sudenly as if th paeper had been an eevil spel.

Mr. Laurence caem hurying bak with Beth, bringing every cumfort th kiend oeld jentlman cuud think of for th invalid, and frendlyest promises of protection for th gurls duuring th muther's absence, which cumforted her verry much. Thaer wuz nuthing he didn't ofer, from his oen dresing-goun to himself as escort. But that last wuz imposibl. Mrs. March wuud not heer of th oeld jentlmans undertaeking th long jurny; yet an expreshon of releef wuz vizibl when he spoek of it, for anxiety il fits wun for travelling. He saw th luuk, nit his hevy iebrows, rubd his hands, and marcht abruptly away, saeing he'd be bak direktly. No wun had tiem to think of him again till, as Meg ran thru th entry, with a paer of rubers in 200 wun hand and a cup of tee in th uther, she caem sudenly upon Mr. Brooke.

She came suddenly upon Mr. Brooke

"I'm verry sorry to heer of this, Mis March," he sed, in th kiend, qieet toen which sounded verry pleasantly to her perturbed spirit. "I caem to ofer mieself as escort to yuur muther. Mr. Laurence has comishons for me in Washington, and it wil giv me reeal satisfakshon to be of survis to her thaer."

Doun dropt th rubers, and th tee wuz verry neer foloeing, as Meg put out her hand, with a faess so fuul of gratitood, that Mr. Brooke wuud hav felt re-paed for a much graeter sacrifiess than th trifling wun of tiem and cumfort which he wuz about to maek.

"How kiend U all ar! Muther wil accept, I'm shuur; and it wil be such a releef to noe that she has sum wun to taek caer of her. Thank U verry, verry much!"

Meg spoek urnestly, and forgot herself entierly till sumthing in th broun ies luuking doun at her maed her remember th cooling tee, and leed th wae into th parlor, saeing she wuud call her muther.

Everything wuz araenjd by th tiem Laurie returnd with a noet from Ant March, enclosing th dezierd sum, and a fue liens repeeting whut she had ofen sed befor,—that she had aulwaes toeld them it wuz absurd for March to go into th army, aulwaes predikted that no guud wuud cum of it, and she hoept thae wuud taek her advice next tiem. Mrs. March put th noet in th fier, th muny in her purss, and went on with her preparaeshons, with her lips foelded tightly, in a wae which Jo wuud hav understuud if she had been thaer.

Th short afternoon wor away; all th uther errands wer dun, and Meg and her muther busy at sum nesesaery needl-wurk, whiel Beth and Amy got tee, and Hannah finisht her ieerning with whut she called a "slap and a bang," but still Jo did not cum. Thae began to get anxious; and Laurie went off to fiend her, for no wun ever knew whut freek Jo miet taek into her hed. He mist her, however, and she caem wauking in with a verry qeer expreshon of countenanss, for thaer wuz a mixcher of fun and feer, satisfakshon and regret, in it, which puzzled th family as much as did th roel of bils she laed befor her muther, saeing, with a litl choek in her vois, "That's mi contribution 201 tords' maeking faather comfortable and bringing him hoem!"

"Mi deer, whaer did U get it? Twenty-fiev dolars! Jo, I hoep U haeven't dun anything rash?

"No, it's mien onestly; I didn't beg, borrow, or steal it. I urnd it; and I don't think U'll blaem me, for I oenly soeld whut wuz mi oen."

As she spoek, Jo tuuk off her bonnet, and a jeneral outcri aroez, for all her abundant haer wuz cut short.

"Yuur haer! Yuur buetiful haer!" "O Jo, how cuud U? Yuur wun buety." "Mi deer gurl, thaer wuz no need of this." "She doesn't luuk liek mi Jo any mor, but I luv her deerly for it!"

As every wun exclaemd, and Beth hugd th cropt hed tenderly, Jo asuemd an indiferent aer, which did not deseev any wun a partikl, and sed, rumpling up th broun bush, and trieing to luuk as if she liked it, "It doesn't affect th faet of th naeshon, so don't wael, Beth. It wil be guud for mi vanity; I wuz geting too proud of mi wig. It wil do mi braens guud to hav that mop taeken off; mi hed feels deliciously liet and cool, and th barber sed I cuud soon hav a curly crop, which wil be boyish, becuming, and eezy to keep in order. I'm satisfied; so pleez taek th muny, and let's hav super."

"Tel me all about it, Jo. I am not qiet satisfied, but I can't blaem U, for I noe how wilingly U sacrifiest yuur vanity, as U call it, to yuur luv. But, mi deer, it wuz not nesesaery, and I'm afraed U wil regret it, wun of thees daes," sed Mrs. March.

"No, I wun't!" returnd Jo stoutly, feeling much releevd that her prank wuz not entierly condemd.

"Whut maed U do it?" askt Amy, hoo wuud as soon hav thaut of cuting off her hed as her prity haer.

"Wel, I wuz wield to do sumthing for faather," replied Jo, as thae gatherd about th taebl, for helthy yung peepl can eat eeven in th midst of trubl. "I haet to borrow as much as muther duz, and I knew Ant March wuud croek; she aulwaes duz, if U ask for a ninepence. Meg gaev all her qorterly salary tord th rent, and I 202 oenly got sum cloeths with mien, so I felt wiked, and wuz bound to hav sum muny, if I soeld th noez off mi faess to get it."

"U needn't feel wiked, mi chield: U had no winter things, and got th simplest with yuur oen hard urnestly," sed Mrs. March, with a luuk that wormd Jo's hart.

"I hadn't th leest iedeea of seling mi haer at furst, but as I went along I kept thinking whut I cuud do, and feeling as if I'd liek to dive into sum of th rich stors and help mieself. In a barber's windo I saw taels of haer with th prieses markt; and wun blak tael, not so thik as mien, wuz forty dolars. It caem oever me all of a suden that I had wun thing to maek muny out of, and without stoping to think, I waukt in, askt if thae bought haer, and whut thae wuud giv for mien."

"I don't see how U dared to do it," sed Beth, in a toen of aw.

"O, he wuz a litl man hoo luukt as if he meerly livd to oil his haer. He rather staerd, at furst, as if he wasn't uezd to having gurls bounss into his shop and ask him to bie thaer haer. He sed he didn't caer about mien, it wasn't th fashonabl culor, and he never paed much for it in th furst plaess; th wurk put into it maed it deer, and so on. It wuz geting laet, and I wuz afraed, if it wasn't dun riet away, that I shouldn't hav it dun at all, and U noe when I start to do a thing, I haet to giv it up; so I begd him to taek it, and toeld him whi I wuz in such a hurry. It wuz sily, I daer sae, but it chaenjd his miend, for I got rather exsieted, and toeld th story in mi topsy-turvy wae, and his wief hurd, and sed so kiendly,—

"'Taek it, Thomas, and obliej th yung laedy; I'd do as much for our Jimy any dae if I had a spier of haer wurth seling.'"

"Hoo wuz Jimy?" askt Amy, hoo liked to hav things explaend as thae went along.

"Her sun, she sed, hoo wuz in th army. How frendly such things maek straenjers feel, don't thae? She taukt away all th tiem th man clipt, and divurted mi miend niesly."

The man clipped

"Didn't U feel dredfuly when th furst cut caem?" askt Meg, with a shiver.

"I tuuk a last luuk at mi haer whiel th man got his things, and that wuz th end of it. I never snivel oever trifles liek that; I wil 203 confes, tho, I felt qeer when I saw th deer oeld haer laed out on th taebl, and felt oenly th short, ruf ends on mi hed. It aulmoest seemd as if I'd an arm or a leg off. Th wuuman saw me luuk at it, and pikt out a long lok for me to keep. I'll giv it to U, Marmee, just to remember past glorys by; for a crop is so comfortable I don't think I shal ever hav a maen again."

Mrs. March foelded th waevy, chestnut lok, and laed it away with a short grae wun in her desk. She oenly sed "Thank U, deary," but sumthing in her faess maed th gurls chaenj th subjekt, and tauk as cheerfuly as thae cuud about Mr. Brooke's kiendnes, th prospekt of a fien dae to-morro, and th hapy times thae wuud hav when faather caem hoem to be nurst.

No wun wontedw to go to bed, when, at ten o'clok, Mrs. March put by th last finisht job, and sed, "Cum, gurls." Beth went to th piano and plaed th faather's faevorit him; all began bravely, but 204 broek doun wun by wun, till Beth wuz left aloen, singing with all her hart, for to her muezik wuz aulwaes a sweet consoler.

"Go to bed and don't tauk, for we must be up eerly, and shal need all th sleep we can get. Guud-niet, mi darlings," sed Mrs. March, as th him ended, for no wun caerd to tri anuther.

Thae kist her qieetly, and went to bed as silently as if th deer invalid lae in th next room. Beth and Amy soon fel asleep in spiet of th graet trubl, but Meg lae awake, thinking th moest seerius thoughts she had ever noen in her short lief. Jo lae moeshonles, and her sister fansyd that she wuz asleep, till a stifled sob maed her exclaem, as she tucht a wet cheek,—

"Jo, deer, whut is it? Ar U crieing about faather?"

"No, not now."

"Whut then?"

"Mi—mi haer!" burst out puur Jo, trieing vainly to smuther her emotion in th pilo.

It did not sound at all comikal to Meg, hoo kist and caressed th aflikted herroein in th tenderest maner.

"I'm not sorry," protested Jo, with a choek. "I'd do it again to-morro, if I cuud. It's oenly th vaen, selfish part of me that goes and cries in this sily wae. Don't tel any wun, it's all oever now. I thaut U wer asleep, so I just maed a litl private moen for mi wun buety. How caem U to be awake?"

"I can't sleep, I'm so anxious," sed Meg.

"Think about sumthing plezant, and U'll soon drop off."

"I tried it, but felt wieder awake than ever."

"Whut did U think of?"

"Handsum faeses,—ies particularly," anserd Meg, smieling to herself, in th dark.

"Whut culor do U liek best?"

"Broun—that is, sumtiems; bloo ar luvly."

Jo laft, and Meg sharply orderd her not to tauk, then amiably promist to maek her haer curl, and fel asleep to dreem of living in her casl in th aer.

Th cloks wer strieking midniet, and th rooms wer verry still, as a figuer glieded qieetly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlid heer, 205 setling a pilo thaer, and pausing to luuk long and tenderly at eech unconshus faess, to kis eech with lips that mutely blest, and to prae th furvent praers which oenly muthers uter. As she lifted th curten to luuk out into th dreery niet, th moon broek sudenly from behind th clouds, and shone upon her liek a briet, benignant faess, which seemd to whisper in th silence, "Be cumforted, deer soel! Thaer is aulwaes liet behind th clouds."

Tail-piece

XVI. Leters.

206

Letters

XVI.

Leters.

In th coeld grae daun th sisters lit thaer lamp, and red thaer chapter with an urnestly never felt befor; for now th shado of a reeal trubl had cum, th litl books wer fuul of help and cumfort; and, as thae drest, thae agreed to sae guud-by cheerfuly and hoepfuly, and send thaer muther on her anxious jurny unsaddened by teers or complaents from them. Everything seemd verry straenj when thae went doun,—so dim and still outsied, so fuul of liet and busl within. Brekfast at that eerly our seemd od, and eeven Hannah's familyar faess luukt unnacheral as she floo about her kichen with her niet-cap on. Th big trunk stuud redy in th haul, muther's cloek and bonnet lae on th soefa, and muther herself sat trieing to eat, but luuking so pale and worn with sleeplessness and anxiety that th gurls found it verry hard to keep thaer rezolooshon. Meg's ies kept filing in spiet of herself; Jo wuz obliejd to hied her faess in th kichen roeler mor than wunss; and th litl gurls' wor a graev, trubld expreshon, as if sorro wuz a nue expeeri’enss to them.

207 Noebody taukt much, but as th tiem droo verry neer, and thae sat waeting for th carrej, Mrs. March sed to th gurls, hoo wer all busied about her, wun foelding her shaul, anuther smoothing out th strings of her bonnet, a thurd putting on her oevershoos, and a foerth fasening up her travelling bag,—

"Children, I leev U to Hannah's caer and Mr. Laurence's protection. Hannah is faethfulnes itself, and our guud naebor wil gard U as if U wer his oen. I hav no feers for U, yet I am anxious that U should taek this trubl rietly. Don't greev and fret when I am gon, or think that U can cumfort yuurselvs by being iedl and trieing to forget. Go on with yuur wurk as uezhual, for wurk is a blest solis. Hoep and keep busy; and whotever happens, remember that U never can be faatherles."

"Yes, muther."

"Meg, deer, be proodent, woch oever yuur sisters, consult Hannah, and, in any perplexity, go to Mr. Laurence. Be paeshent, Jo, don't get despondent or do rash things; riet to me ofen, and be mi braev gurl, redy to help and cheer us all. Beth, cumfort yuurself with yuur muezik, and be faethful to th litl hoem duties; and U, Amy, help all U can, be oebeedi’ent, and keep hapy saef at hoem."

"We wil, muther! we wil!"

Th ratl of an approaching carrej maed them all start and lisen. That wuz th hard mienuet, but th gurls stuud it wel: no wun cried, no wun ran away or uterd a lamentaeshon, tho thaer harts wer verry hevy as thae sent luving mesejes to faather, remembering, as thae spoek, that it miet be too laet to deliver them. Thae kist thaer muther qieetly, clung about her tenderly, and tried to waev thaer hands cheerfuly when she droev away.

Laurie and his grandfaather caem oever to see her off, and Mr. Brooke luukt so strong and sensibl and kiend that th gurls crisend him "Mr. Greatheart" on th spot.

"Guud-by, mi darlings! God bles and keep us all!" whisperd Mrs. March, as she kist wun deer litl faess after th uther, and huryd into th carrej.

As she roeld away, th sun caem out, and, luuking bak, she saw it shiening on th groop at th gaet, liek a guud oemen. Thae saw it 208 aulso, and smield and waevd thaer hands; and th last thing she beheld, as she turnd th corner, wuz th foer briet faeses, and behind them, liek a body-gard, oeld Mr. Laurence, faethful Hannah, and devoeted Laurie.

She rolled away

"How kiend every wun is to us!" she sed, turning to fiend fresh proof of it in th respektful simpathy of th yung man's faess.

"I don't see how thae can help it," returnd Mr. Brooke, lafing so infectiously that Mrs. March cuud not help smieling; and so th long jurny began with th guud oemens of sunshine, smiels, and cheerful wurds.

"I feel as if thaer had been an urthqaek," sed Jo, as thaer naebors went hoem to brekfast, leeving them to rest and refreshes themselvs.

"It seems as if haf th hous wuz gon," aded Meg forlornly.

Beth oepend her lips to sae sumthing, but cuud oenly pointer to th piel of niesly-mended hoez which lae on muther's taebl, shoeing that eeven in her last huryd moements she had thaut and wurkt for them. It wuz a litl thing, but it went straet to thaer harts; and, in spiet of thaer braev rezolooshons, thae all broek doun, and cried biterly.

209 Hannah wiezly alowd them to releev thaer feelings, and, when th shower shoed siens of cleering up, she caem to th rescue, armd with a cofy-pot.

"Now, mi deer yung laedys, remember whut yuur maa sed, and don't fret. Cum and hav a cup of cofy all round, and then let's faul to wurk, and be a credit to th family."

Cofy wuz a treat, and Hannah shoed graet takt in maeking it that morning. No wun cuud rezist her persuasive nods, or th fraegrant invitaeshon ishooing from th noez of th cofy-pot. Thae droo up to th taebl, exchanged thaer hankerchifs for napkins, and in ten minits wer all riet again.

"'Hoep and keep busy;' that's th moto for us, so let's see hoo wil remember it best. I shal go to Ant March, as uezhual. O, wun't she lecture tho!" sed Jo, as she sipt with returning spirit.

"I shal go to mi Kings, tho I'd much rather stae at hoem and atend to things heer," sed Meg, wishing she hadn't maed her ies so red.

"No need of that; Beth and I can keep hous perfectly wel," put in Amy, with an important aer.

"Hannah wil tel us whut to do; and we'll hav everything niess when U cum hoem," aded Beth, geting out her mop and dish-tub without delae.

"I think anxiety is verry interesting," obzurvd Amy, eating sugar, pensivly.

Th gurls couldn't help lafing, and felt beter for it, tho Meg shuuk her hed at th yung laedy hoo cuud fiend consolaeshon in a sugar-boel.

Th siet of th turn-overs maed Jo soeber again; and when th too went out to thaer daily tasks, thae luukt sorroefuly bak at th windo whaer thae wer accustomed to see thaer muther's faess. It wuz gon; but Beth had rememberd th litl hous-hoeld serremoeny, and thaer she wuz, noding away at them liek a roezy-faest mandarin.

"That's so liek mi Beth!" sed Jo, waeving her hat, with a graetful faess. "Guud-by, Meggy; I hoep th Kings wun't traen to-dae. Don't fret about faather, deer," she aded, as thae parted.

"And I hoep Ant March wun't croek. Yuur haer is becuming, 210 and it luuks verry boyish and niess," returnd Meg, trieing not to smiel at th curly hed, which luukt comikaly small on her taul sister's shoulders.

"That's mi oenly cumfort;" and, tuching her hat à laa Laurie, away went Jo, feeling liek a shorn sheep on a wintry dae.

Nues from thaer faather cumforted th gurls verry much; for, tho dangerously il, th presence of th best and tenderest of nurses had aulredy dun him guud. Mr. Brooke sent a buletin every dae, and, as th hed of th family, Meg insisted on reeding th despaches, which groo mor and mor cheering as th week past. At furst, every wun wuz eeger to riet, and plump envelopes wer carefully poekt into th leter-box by wun or uther of th sisters, hoo felt rather important with thaer Washington corespondenss. As wun of thees pakets contained carrakteristik noets from th party, we wil rob an imajinarry mael, and red them:—

"Mi Deerest Muther,—

"It is imposibl to tel U how hapy yuur last leter maed us, for th nues wuz so guud we couldn't help lafing and crieing oever it. How verry kiend Mr. Brooke is, and how forchunat that Mr. Laurence's business detaens him neer U so long, sinss he is so uesful to U and faather. Th gurls ar all as guud as goeld. Jo helps me with th soeing, and insists on dooing all sorts of hard jobs. I should be afraed she miet oeverdo, if I didn't noe that her 'moral fit' wouldn't last long. Beth is as reguelar about her tasks as a clok, and never forgets whut U toeld her. She greevs about faather, and luuks soeber exsept when she is at her litl piano. Amy miends me niesly, and I taek graet caer of her. She duz her oen haer, and I am teeching her to maek buton-hoels and mend her stokings. She tries verry hard, and I noe U wil be pleezd with her improovment when U cum. Mr. Laurence woches oever us liek a mutherly oeld hen, as Jo sez; and Laurie is verry kiend and naeborly. He and Jo keep us merry, for we get prity bloo sumtiems, and feel liek orfans, with U so far away. Hannah is a perfect saent; she duz not scoeld at all, and aulwaes calls me Mis 'Margaret,' which is qiet proper, U noe, and treats me with respekt. We ar all wel and 211 busy; but we long, dae and niet, to hav U bak. Giv mi deerest luv to faather, and beleev me, ever yuur oen

"Meg."

This noet, pritily riten on sented paeper, wuz a graet contrast to th next, which wuz scribld on a big sheet of thin forin paeper, ornamented with blots and all maner of flourishes and curly-taeld leters:—

"Mi Precious Marmee,—

"Three cheers for deer faather! Brooke wuz a trump to telegraf riet off, and let us noe th mienuet he wuz beter. I rusht up garret when th leter caem, and tried to thank God for being so guud to us; but I cuud oenly cri, and sae, 'I'm glad! I'm glad!' Didn't that do as wel as a reguelar praer? for I felt a graet meny in mi hart. We hav such funy times; and now I can enjoy them, for every wun is so desperatly guud, it's liek living in a nest of turtle-duvs. U'd laf to see Meg hed th taebl and tri to be motherish. She gets prityer every dae, and I'm in luv with her sumtiems. Th children ar reguelar archaenjels, and I—wel, I'm Jo, and never shal be anything else. O, I must tel U that I caem neer having a qorrel with Laurie. I freed mi miend about a sily litl thing, and he wuz ofended. I wuz riet, but didn't speek as I aut, and he marcht hoem, saeing he wouldn't cum again till I begd pardon. I declaerd I wouldn't, and got mad. It lasted all dae; I felt bad, and wontedw U verry much. Laurie and I ar boeth so proud, it's hard to beg pardon; but I thaut he'd cum to it, for I wuz in th riet. He didn't cum; and just at niet I rememberd whut U sed when Amy fel into th river. I red mi litl book, felt beter, rezolvd not to let th sun set on mi angger, and ran oever to tel Laurie I wuz sorry. I met him at th gaet, cuming for th saem thing. We boeth laft, begd eech uther's pardon, and felt all guud and comfortable again.

"I maed a 'pome' yesterdae, when I wuz helping Hannah wosh; and, as faather lieks mi sily litl things, I put it in to amuez him. Giv him th lovingest hug that ever wuz, and kis yuurself a duzen times for yuur

"Topsy-Turvy Jo."


212

"A SONG FROM Th SUDS.

"Qeen of mi tub, I merrily sing,

Whiel th whiet foem riezes hie;

And sturdily wosh and rinss and ring,

And fasen th cloeths to dri;

Then out in th free fresh aer thae swing,

Under th suny ski.


"I wish we cuud wosh from our harts and soels

Th staens of th week away,

And let wauter and aer by thaer majik maek

Ourselvs as puer as thae;

Then on th urth thaer wuud be indeed

A glorius woshing-dae!


"Along th path of a uesful lief,

Wil hart's-eez ever bloom;

Th busy miend has no tiem to think

Of sorro or caer or gloom;

And anxious thoughts mae be swept away,

As we bravely weeld a broom.


"I am glad a task to me is given,

To laebor at dae by dae;

For it brings me helth and strength and hoep,

And I cheerfuly lurn to sae,—

'Hed, U mae think, Hart, U mae feel,

But, Hand, U shal wurk alway!'"

I wind the clock

"Deer Muther,—

"Thaer is oenly room for me to send mi luv, and sum prest panzys from th root I hav been keeping saef in th hous for faather to see. I red every morning, tri to be guud all dae, and sing mieself to sleep with faather's tuen. I can't sing 'Land of th Leal' now; it maeks me cri. Every wun is verry kiend, and we ar as hapy as we can be without U. Amy wonts th rest of th paej, so I must stop. I didn't forget to cuver th hoelders, and I wiend th clok and aer th rooms every dae.

"Kis deer faather on th cheek he calls mien. O, do cum soon to yuur luving

"Litl Beth."


213

"Maa Chere Maama,—

"We ar all wel I do mi lesons aulwaes and never corroberate th gurls—Meg sez I meen contradick so I put in boeth wurds and U can taek th properest. Meg is a graet cumfort to me and lets me hav jely every niet at tee its so guud for me Jo sez because it keeps me sweet temperd. Laurie is not as respeckful as he aut to be now I am aulmoest in mi teens, he calls me Chik and hurts mi feelings by tauking French to me verry fast when I sae Merci or Bon jour as Hattie King duz. Th sleeves of mi bloo dres wer all worn out, and Meg put in nue wuns, but th fuul frunt caem rong and thae ar mor bloo than th dres. I felt bad but did not fret I baer mi trubls wel but I do wish Hannah wuud put mor starch in mi aprons and hav buckwheats every dae. Can't she? Didn't I maek that interrigation pointer niess? Meg sez mi punchtuation and speling ar disgraesful and I am mortyfied but deer me I hav so meny things to do, I can't stop. Adieu, I send heeps of luv to Papa.

"Yuur affectionate dauter,

"Amy Curtis March."

Yours Respectful, Hannah Mullet

"Deer Mis March,—

"I jes drop a lien to sae we git on fust raet. Th gurls is clever and fli round riet smart. Mis Meg is going to maek a proper guud 214 houskeeper; she hes th lieking for it, and gits th hang of things surprisin qik. Jo doos beet all for goin ahead, but she don't stop to cal'k'laet fust, and U never noe whaer she's liek to bring up. She dun out a tub of cloeths on Monday, but she starcht 'em afore thae wuz rencht, and blued a pink calico dres till I thaut I should a died a laughin. Beth is th best of litl creeters, and a siet of help to me, bein so forhanded and dependabl. She tries to lurn everything, and reealy goes to market beyond her yeers; liekwiez keeps accounts, with mi help, qiet wunderful. We hav got on verry economikal so fur; I don't let th gurls hev cofy oenly wunss a week, accordin to yuur wish, and keep em on plaen hoelsum vittles. Amy duz wel about frettin, wearin her best cloeths and eatin sweet stuf. Mr. Laurie is as fuul of didoes as uezhual, and turns th hous upsied doun freeqent; but he hartens up th gurls, and so I let em hev fuul swing. Th oeld jentlman sends heeps of things, and is rather wearin, but means wal, and it aint mi plaess to sae nothin. Mi bred is riz, so no mor at this tiem. I send mi duty to Mr. March, and hoep he's seen th last of his Pewmonia.

"Yuurs Respektful,

"Hannah Mulet."


"Hed Nurss of Word No. 2,—

"All sereen on th Rappahannock, troops in fien condishon, commissary department wel conducted, th Hoem Gard under Colonel Teddy aulwaes on duty, Comander-in-cheef Jeneral Laurence revues th army daily, Qortermaster Mullett keeps order in camp, and Maejor 215 Lieon duz picket duty at niet. A saloot of twenty-foer guns wuz fierd on reseet of guud nues from Washington, and a dres parade tuuk plaess at hed-qorters. Comander-in-cheef sends best wishes, in which he is hartily joind by

"Colonel Teddy."


"Deer Madam,—

"Th litl gurls ar all wel; Beth and mi boy report daily; Hannah is a model survant, and guards prity Meg liek a dragon. Glad th fien wether hoelds; prae maek Brooke uesful, and draw on me for funds if expenses exseed yuur estimate. Don't let yuur huzband wont anything. Thank God he is mending.

"Yuur sincere frend and survant,

"James Laurence."

Tail-piece

XVII. Litl Faethful.

216

XVII.

Litl Faethful.

For a week th amount of vurchoo in th oeld hous wuud hav suplied th naeborhuud. It wuz reealy amaezing, for every wun seemd in a hevenly fraem of miend, and self-denieal wuz all th fashon. Releevd of thaer furst anxiety about thaer faather, th gurls insensibly relaxt thaer praiseworthy eforts a litl, and began to faul bak into th oeld waes. Thae did not forget thaer moto, but hoeping and keeping busy seemd to gro eezyer; and after such tremendous exertions, thae felt that Endevor dezurvd a holidae, and gaev it a guud meny.

Jo caut a bad coeld thru neglekt to cuver th shorn hed enough, and wuz orderd to stae at hoem till she wuz beter, for Ant March didn't liek to heer peepl red with colds in thaer heds. Jo liked this, and after an enerjetik rumej from garret to selar, subsided on th soefa to nurss her coeld with arsenicum and books. Amy found that houswurk and art did not go wel together, and returnd to her mud pies. Meg went daily to her pupils, and soed, or thaut she did, at hoem, but much tiem wuz spent in rieting long leters to her muther, or reeding th Washington despaches oever and oever. Beth kept on, with oenly sliet relapses into iedlnes or greeving. All th litl duties wer faethfuly dun eech dae, and meny of her sisters' aulso, for thae wer forgetful, and th hous seemd liek a clok hoos penjulum wuz gon a-viziting. When her hart got hevy with longings for muther or feers for faather, she went away into a surten clozet, hid her faess in th foelds of a surten deer oeld goun, and maed her litl moen and praed her litl praer qieetly by herself. Noebody knew whut cheerd her up after a soeber fit, but every wun felt how sweet and helpful Beth wuz, and fel into a wae of going to her for cumfort or advice in thaer small affairs.

217 All wer unconshus that this expeeri’enss wuz a test of carrakter; and, when th furst exsietment wuz oever, felt that thae had dun wel, and dezurvd praez. So thae did; but thaer mistaek wuz in seesing to do wel, and thae lurnd this leson thru much anxiety and regret.

"Meg, I wish U'd go and see th Hummels; U noe muther toeld us not to forget them," sed Beth, ten daes after Mrs. March's deparcher.

"I'm too tierd to go this afternoon," replied Meg, roking comfortably as she soed.

"Can't U, Jo?" askt Beth.

"Too stormy for me with mi coeld."

"I thaut it wuz aulmoest wel."

"It's wel enough for me to go out with Laurie, but not wel enough to go to th Hummels'," sed Jo, lafing, but luuking a litl ashamed of her inconsistency.

"Whi don't U go yuurself?" askt Meg.

"I hav been every dae, but th baeby is sik, and I don't noe whut to do for it. Mrs. Hummel goes away to wurk, and Lottchen taeks caer of it; but it gets siker and siker, and I think U or Hannah aut to go."

Beth spoek urnestly, and Meg promist she wuud go to-morro.

"Ask Hannah for sum niess litl mes, and taek it round, Beth; th aer wil do U guud," sed Jo, ading apolojetikaly, "I'd go, but I wont to finish mi rieting."

"Mi hed aeks and I'm tierd, so I thaut mae be sum of U wuud go," sed Beth.

"Amy wil be in prezently, and she wil run doun for us," sugjested Meg.

"Wel, I'll rest a litl and waet for her."

So Beth lae doun on th soefa, th others returnd to thaer wurk, and th Hummels wer forgoten. An our past: Amy did not cum; Meg went to her room to tri on a nue dres; Jo wuz absorbd in her story, and Hannah wuz sound asleep befor th kichen fier, when Beth qieetly put on her huud, fild her basket with ods and ends for th puur children, and went out into th chily aer, with a 218 hevy hed, and a greevd luuk in her paeshent ies. It wuz laet when she caem bak, and no wun saw her creep upstaers and shut herself into her muther's room. Haf an our after Jo went to "muther's clozet" for sumthing, and thaer found Beth sitting on th medisin chest, luuking verry graev, with red ies, and a camfor-botl in her hand.

"Christopher Columbus! Whut's th mater?" cried Jo, as Beth put out her hand as if to worn her off, and askt qikly,—

"U've had th scarlet feever, haeven't U?"

"Yeers ago, when Meg did. Whi?"

"Then I'll tel U. O, Jo, th baeby's ded!"

"Whut baeby?"

"Mrs. Hummel's; it died in mi lap befor she got hoem," cried Beth, with a sob.

219 "Mi puur deer, how dredful for U! I aut to hav gon," sed Jo, taeking her sister in her arms as she sat doun in her muther's big chaer, with a remorsful faess.

"It wasn't dredful, Jo, oenly so sad! I saw in a mienuet that it wuz siker, but Lottchen sed her muther had gon for a doktor, so I tuuk baeby and let Lotty rest. It seemd asleep, but all of a suden it gaev a litl cri, and trembld, and then lae verry still. I tried to worm its feet, and Lotty gaev it sum milk, but it didn't stur, and I knew it wuz ded."

It didn't stir, and I knew it was dead

"Don't cri, deer! Whut did U do?"

"I just sat and held it softly till Mrs. Hummel caem with th doktor. He sed it wuz ded, and luukt at Heinrich and Minna, hoo hav got sor throets. 'Scarlet feever, maa'am. Aut to hav called me befor,' he sed crosly. Mrs. Hummel toeld him she wuz puur, and had tried to cuer baeby herself, but now it wuz too laet, and she cuud oenly ask him to help th others, and trust to charrity for his pae. He smield then, and wuz kiender; but it wuz verry sad, and I cried with them till he turnd round, all of a suden, and toeld me to go hoem and taek belladonna riet away, or I'd hav th feever."

"No, U wun't!" cried Jo, huging her cloez, with a frietend luuk. "O Beth, if U should be sik I never cuud forgiv mieself! Whut shal we do?"

"Don't be frietend, I ges I shan't hav it badly. I luukt in muther's book, and saw that it begins with hedaek, sor throet, and qeer feelings liek mien, so I did taek sum belladonna, and I feel beter," sed Beth, laeing her coeld hands on her hot forhed, and trieing to luuk wel.

"If muther wuz oenly at hoem!" exclaemd Jo, seezing th book, and feeling that Washington wuz an imenss wae off. She red a paej, luukt at Beth, felt her hed, peept into her throet, and then sed gravely; "U've been oever th baeby every dae for mor than a week, and amung th others hoo ar going to hav it; so I'm afraed U ar going to hav it, Beth. I'll call Hannah, she noes all about siknes."

"Don't let Amy cum; she never had it, and I should haet to giv it to her. Can't U and Meg hav it oever again?" askt Beth, anxiously.

220 "I ges not; don't caer if I do; surv me riet, selfish pig, to let U go, and stae rieting rubish mieself!" muterd Jo, as she went to consult Hannah.

Th guud soel wuz wied awake in a mienuet, and tuuk th leed at wunss, ashuuring Jo that thaer wuz no need to wury; every wun had scarlet feever, and, if rietly treated, noebody died,—all of which Jo beleevd, and felt much releevd as thae went up to call Meg.

"Now I'll tel U whut we'll do," sed Hannah, when she had examind and qeschond Beth; "we wil hav Dr. Bangs, just to taek a luuk at U, deer, and see that we start riet; then we'll send Amy off to Ant March's, for a spel, to keep her out of harm's wae, and wun of U gurls can stae at hoem and amuez Beth for a dae or too."

"I shal stae, of corss; I'm oeldest," began Meg, luuking anxious and self-reproechful.

"I shal, because it's mi fault she is sik; I toeld muther I'd do th errands, and I haeven't," sed Jo decidedly.

"Which wil U hav, Beth? thaer ain't no need of but wun," sed Hannah.

"Jo, pleez;" and Beth leend her hed against her sister, with a contented luuk, which effectually setld that pointer.

"I'll go and tel Amy," sed Meg, feeling a litl hurt, yet rather releevd, on th hoel, for she did not liek nursing, and Jo did.

Amy rebeld outriet, and pashonatly declaerd that she had rather hav th feever than go to Ant March. Meg reezond, pleeded, and comanded: all in vaen. Amy protested that she wuud not go; and Meg left her in despaer, to ask Hannah whut should be dun. Befor she caem bak, Laurie waukt into th parlor to fiend Amy sobing, with her hed in th soefa-cuushons. She toeld her story, expecting to be consoeld; but Laurie oenly put his hands in his pokets and waukt about th room, whisling softly, as he nit his brows in deep thaut. Prezently he sat doun besied her, and sed, in his moest wheedlesome toen, "Now be a sensibl litl wuuman, and do as thae sae. No, don't cri, but heer whut a joly plan I've got. U go to Ant March's, and I'll cum and taek U out every dae, drieving or wauking, and we'll hav capital times. Wun't that be beter than moeping heer?"

221

He sat down beside her

"I don't wish to be sent off as if I wuz in th wae," began Amy, in an injerd vois.

"Bles yuur hart, chield, it's to keep U wel. U don't wont to be sik, do U?"

"No, I'm shuur I don't; but I daer sae I shal be, for I've been with Beth all th tiem."

"That's th verry reezon U aut to go away at wunss, so that U mae escaep it. Chaenj of aer and caer wil keep U wel, I daer sae; or, if it duz not entierly, U wil hav th feever mor lietly. I advise U to be off as soon as U can, for scarlet feever is no joek, mis."

"But it's dul at Ant March's, and she is so cros," sed Amy, luuking rather frietend.

"It wun't be dul with me poping in every dae to tel U how Beth is, and taek U out galivanting. Th oeld laedy lieks me, and I'll be as sweet as posibl to her, so she wun't peck at us, whotever we do."

222 "Wil U taek me out in th troting wagon with Puk?"

"On mi onor as a jentlman."

"And cum every singgl dae?"

"See if I don't."

"And bring me bak th mienuet Beth is wel?"

"Th iedentikal mienuet."

"And go to th theeater, truly?"

"A duzen theeaters, if we mae."

"Wel—I ges—I wil," sed Amy sloely.

"Guud gurl! Call Meg, and tel her U'll giv in," sed Laurie, with an aprooving pat, which anoyd Amy mor than th "giving in."

Meg and Jo caem runing doun to behoeld th mirakl which had been raut; and Amy, feeling verry precious and self-sacrifiesing, promist to go, if th doktor sed Beth wuz going to be il.

"How is th litl deer?" askt Laurie; for Beth wuz his especial pet, and he felt mor anxious about her than he liked to sho.

"She is lieing doun on muther's bed, and feels beter. Th baeby's deth trubld her, but I daer sae she has oenly got coeld. Hannah sez she thinks so; but she luuks wuryd, and that maeks me fijety," anserd Meg.

"Whut a trieing wurld it is!" sed Jo, rumpling up her haer in a fretful sort of wae. "No sooner do we get out of wun trubl than doun cums anuther. Thaer doesn't seem to be anything to hoeld on to when muther's gon; so I'm all at see."

"Wel, don't maek a porcupine of yuurself, it isn't becuming. Setl yuur wig, Jo, and tel me if I shal telegraf to yuur muther, or do anything?" askt Laurie, hoo never had been reconsield to th lost of his frend's wun buety.

"That is whut trubls me," sed Meg. "I think we aut to tel her if Beth is reealy il, but Hannah sez we mustn't, for muther can't leev faather, and it wil oenly maek them anxious. Beth wun't be sik long, and Hannah noes just whut to do, and muther sed we wer to miend her, so I supoez we must, but it doesn't seem qiet riet to me."

"Hum, wel, I can't sae; supoez U ask grandfaather after th doktor has been."

223 "We wil. Jo, go and get Dr. Bangs at wunss," comanded Meg; "we can't desied anything till he has been."

"Stae whaer U ar, Jo; I'm errand-boy to this establishment," sed Laurie, taeking up his cap.

"I'm afraed U ar busy," began Meg.

"No, I've dun mi lesons for th dae."

"Do U study in vaecaeshon tiem?" askt Jo.

"I folo th guud exampl mi naebors set me," wuz Laurie's anser, as he swung himself out of th room.

"I hav graet hoeps of mi boy," obzurvd Jo, woching him fli oever th fenss with an aprooving smiel.

"He duz verry wel—for a boy," wuz Meg's sumwhot ungraeshus anser, for th subjekt did not interest her.

Dr. Bangs caem, sed Beth had symptoms of th feever, but thaut she wuud hav it lietly, tho he luukt soeber oever th Hummel story. Amy wuz orderd off at wunss, and provided with sumthing to word off daenjer, she departed in graet staet, with Jo and Laurie as escort.

Ant March reseevd them with her uezhual hospitality.

"Whut do U wont now?" she askt, luuking sharply oever her spektakls, whiel th parrot, sitting on th bak of her chaer, called out,—

What do you want now?

"Go away. No boys alowd heer."

Laurie retierd to th windo, and Jo toeld her story.

"No mor than I expected, if U ar alowd to go poeking about amung puur foeks. Amy can stae and maek herself uesful if she isn't sik, which I've no dout she wil be,—luuks liek it now. Don't cri, chield, it wurys me to heer peepl snif."

Amy wuz on th pointer of crieing, but Laurie sliely puuld th parrot's tael, which cauzd Polly to uter an astonisht croek, and call out,—

"Bles mi boots!" in such a funy wae, that she laft insted.

"Whut do U heer from yuur muther?" askt th oeld laedy grufly.

"Faather is much beter," replied Jo, trieing to keep soeber.

"O, is he? Wel, that wun't last long, I fansy; March never had any stamina," wuz th cheerful replie.

"Haa, haa! never sae die, taek a pinch of snuf, guud by, guud by!" 224 squalled Polly, dansing on her purch, and clawing at th oeld laedy's cap as Laurie tweaked him in th reer.

"Hoeld yuur tung, U disrespectful oeld burd! and, Jo, U'd beter go at wunss; it isn't proper to be gading about so laet with a ratl-pated boy liek—"

"Hoeld yuur tung, U disrespectful oeld burd!" cried Polly, tumbling off th chaer with a bounss, and runing to peck th "ratl-pated" boy, hoo wuz shaeking with lafter at th last speech.

"I don't think I can baer it, but I'll tri," thaut Amy, as she wuz left aloen with Ant March.

"Get along, U friet!" screemd Polly; and at that rood speech Amy cuud not restraen a snif.


XVIII. Dark Daes.

225

XVIII.

DARK Daes.

Beth did have the fever

Beth did hav th feever, and wuz much siker than any wun but Hannah and th doktor suspekted. Th gurls knew nuthing about ilnes, and Mr. Laurence wuz not alowd to see her, so Hannah had everything all her oen wae, and busy Dr. Bangs did his best, but left a guud deel to th exselent nurss. Meg staed at hoem, lest she should infekt th Kings, and kept hous, feeling verry anxious and a litl guilty when she roet leters in which no menshon wuz maed of Beth's ilnes. She cuud not think it riet to deseev her muther, but she had been bidden to miend Hannah, and Hannah wouldn't heer of "Mrs. March bein' toeld, and wuryd just for sech a trifle." Jo devoeted herself to Beth dae and niet; not a hard task, for Beth wuz verry paeshent, and bor her paen uncomplaeningly as long as she cuud controel herself. But thaer caem a tiem when duuring th feever fits she began to tauk in a horss, broeken vois, to plae on th cuverlet, 226 as if on her beluved litl piano, and tri to sing with a throet so swollen that thaer wuz no muezik left; a tiem when she did not noe th familyar faeses round her, but adrest them by rong naems, and called imploringly for her muther. Then Jo groo frietend, Meg begd to be alowd to riet th trooth, and eeven Hannah sed she "wuud think of it, tho thaer wuz no daenjer yet." A leter from Washington aded to thaer trubl, for Mr. March had had a relaps, and cuud not think of cuming hoem for a long whiel.

How dark th daes seemd now, how sad and loenly th hous, and how hevy wer th harts of th sisters as thae wurkt and waeted, whiel th shado of deth huverd oever th wunss hapy hoem! Then it wuz that Margaret, sitting aloen with teers droping ofen on her wurk, felt how rich she had been in things mor precious than any luksherys muny cuud bie,—in luv, protection, peess, and helth, th reeal blessings of lief. Then it wuz that Jo, living in th darkend room, with that sufering litl sister aulwaes befor her ies, and that pathetik vois sounding in her eers, lurnd to see th buety and th sweetness of Beth's naechuur, to feel how deep and tender a plaess she fild in all harts, and to aknolej th wurth of Beth's unselfish ambishon, to liv for others, and maek hoem hapy by th exercise of thoes simpl vurchoos which all mae possess, and which all should luv and value mor than talent, welth, or buety. And Amy, in her exile, longed eegerly to be at hoem, that she miet wurk for Beth, feeling now that no survis wuud be hard or urksum, and remembering, with regretful greef, how meny neglekted tasks thoes wiling hands had dun for her. Laurie haunted th hous liek a restles goest, and Mr. Laurence locked th grand piano, because he cuud not baer to be remiended of th yung naebor hoo uezd to maek th twilight plezant for him. Every wun mist Beth. Th milkman, baeker, groeser, and butcher inqierd how she did; puur Mrs. Hummel caem to beg pardon for her thoughtlessness, and to get a shroud for Minna; th naebors sent all sorts of cumforts and guud wishes, and eeven thoes hoo knew her best wer serpriezd to fiend how meny frends shi litl Beth had maed.

Meenwhiel she lae on her bed with oeld Joanna at her sied, for eeven in her waanderings she did not forget her forlorn protégé. She longed 227 for her cats, but wuud not hav them brought, lest thae should get sik; and, in her qieet ours, she wuz fuul of anxiety about Jo. She sent luving mesejes to Amy, bade them tel her muther that she wuud riet soon; and ofen begd for pensil and paeper to tri to sae a wurd, that faather miet not think she had neglekted him. But soon eeven thees intervals of conshusnes ended, and she lae our after our, tosing to and fro, with incoeheerent wurds on her lips, or sank into a hevy sleep which brought her no refreshment. Dr. Bangs caem twice a dae, Hannah sat up at niet, Meg kept a telegram in her desk all redy to send off at any mienuet, and Jo never sturd from Beth's sied.

Th furst of December wuz a wintry dae indeed to them, for a biter wiend blew, sno fel fast, and th yeer seemd geting redy for its deth. When Dr. Bangs caem that morning, he luukt long at Beth, held th hot hand in boeth his oen a mienuet, and laed it jently doun, saeing, in a loe toen, to Hannah,—

"If Mrs. March can leev her huzband, she'd beter be sent for."

Hannah noded without speeking, for her lips twitched nurvusly; Meg dropt doun into a chaer as th strength seemd to go out of her lims at th sound of thoes wurds; and Jo, after standing with a pale faess for a mienuet, ran to th parlor, snacht up th telegram, and, throeing on her things, rusht out into th storm. She wuz soon bak, and, whiel noizlesly taeking off her cloek, Laurie caem in with a leter, saeing that Mr. March wuz mending again. Jo red it thankfully, but th hevy waet did not seem lifted off her hart, and her faess wuz so fuul of mizery that Laurie askt qikly,—

"Whut is it? is Beth wurss?"

"I've sent for muther," sed Jo, tuging at her ruber boots with a tragical expreshon.

"Guud for U, Jo! Did U do it on yuur oen responsibility?" askt Laurie, as he seeted her in th haul chaer, and tuuk off th rebelyus boots, seeing how her hands shuuk.

"No, th doktor toeld us to."

"O Jo, it's not so bad as that?" cried Laurie, with a startld faess.

"Yes, it is; she doesn't noe us, she doesn't eeven tauk about th 228 floks of green duvs, as she calls th vien-leevs on th waul; she doesn't luuk liek mi Beth, and thaer's noebody to help us baer it; muther and faather boeth gon, and God seems so far away I can't fiend Him."

As th teers streemd fast doun puur Jo's cheeks, she strecht out her hand in a helples sort of wae, as if groeping in th dark, and Laurie tuuk it in his, whispering, as wel as he cuud, with a lump in his throet,—

"I'm heer. Hoeld on to me, Jo, deer!"

Gently stroking her head as her mother used to do

She cuud not speek, but she did "hoeld on," and th worm grasp of th frendly hueman hand cumforted her sor hart, and seemd to leed her neerer to th Divine arm which aloen cuud uphoeld her in her trubl. Laurie longed to sae sumthing tender and comfortable, but no fitting wurds caem to him, so he stuud silent, jently stroeking her bent hed as her muther uezd to do. It wuz th best thing he cuud hav dun; far mor soothing than th moest eloquent wurds, for Jo felt th unspoeken simpathy, and, in th silence, lurnd th sweet solis which affection administers to sorro. Soon 229 she dried th teers which had releevd her, and luukt up with a graetful faess.

"Thank U, Teddy, I'm beter now; I don't feel so forlorn, and wil tri to baer it if it cums."

"Keep hoeping for th best; that wil help U, Jo. Soon yuur muther wil be heer, and then everything wil be riet."

"I'm so glad faather is beter; now she wun't feel so bad about leeving him. O, me! it duz seem as if all th trubls caem in a heep, and I got th hevyest part on mi shoulders," sighed Jo, spreding her wet hankerchif oever her nees to dri.

"Doesn't Meg puul faer?" askt Laurie, luuking indignant.

"O, yes; she tries to, but she can't luv Bethy as I do; and she wun't mis her as I shal. Beth is mi conshenss, and I can't giv her up. I can't! I can't!"

Doun went Jo's faess into th wet hankerchif, and she cried despaeringly; for she had kept up bravely till now, and never shed a teer. Laurie droo his hand acros his ies, but cuud not speek till he had subdued th choky feeling in his throet and steadied his lips. It miet be unmanly, but he couldn't help it, and I am glad of it. Prezently, as Jo's sobs qieeted, he sed hoepfuly, "I don't think she wil die; she's so guud, and we all luv her so much, I don't beleev God wil taek her away yet."

"Th guud and deer peepl aulwaes do die," groend Jo, but she stopt crieing, for her frend's wurds cheerd her up, in spiet of her oen doubts and feers.

"Puur gurl, U're worn out. It isn't liek U to be forlorn. Stop a bit; I'll harten U up in a jiffy."

Laurie went off too staers at a tiem, and Jo laed her wearied hed doun on Beth's litl broun huud, which no wun had thaut of mooving from th taebl whaer she left it. It must hav possessed sum majik, for th submissive spirit of its jentl oener seemd to enter into Jo; and, when Laurie caem runing doun with a glas of wien, she tuuk it with a smiel, and sed bravely, "I drink—Helth to mi Beth! U ar a guud doktor, Teddy, and such a comfortable frend; how can I ever pae U?" she aded, as th wien refresht her body, as th kiend wurds had dun her trubld miend.

230 "I'll send in mi bil, by and by; and to-niet I'll giv U sumthing that wil worm th cokls of yuur hart beter than qorts of wien," sed Laurie, beeming at her with a faess of suprest satisfakshon at sumthing.

"Whut is it?" cried Jo, forgeting her woes for a mienuet, in her wunder.

"I telegraft to yuur muther yesterdae, and Brooke anserd she'd cum at wunss, and she'll be heer to-niet, and everything wil be all riet. Aren't U glad I did it?"

Laurie spoek verry fast, and turnd red and exsieted all in a mienuet, for he had kept his plot a seecret, for feer of disapointing th gurls or harming Beth. Jo groo qiet whiet, floo out of her chaer, and th moement he stopt speeking she electrified him by throeing her arms round his nek, and crieing out, with a joyful cri, "O Laurie! O muther! I am so glad!" She did not weep again, but laft histerrikaly, and trembld and clung to her frend as if she wuz a litl bewildered by th suden nues. Laurie, tho decidedly amaezd, behaevd with graet presence of miend; he pated her bak soothingly, and, fiending that she wuz recuvering, foloed it up by a bashful kis or too, which brought Jo round at wunss. Hoelding on to th banisters, she put him jently away, saeing breathlessly, "O, don't! I didn't meen to; it wuz dredful of me; but U wer such a deer to go and do it in spiet of Hannah that I couldn't help flieing at U. Tel me all about it, and don't giv me wien again; it maeks me akt so."

"I don't miend," laft Laurie, as he setld his tie. "Whi, U see I got fijety, and so did grandpa. We thaut Hannah wuz oeverdooing th authority business, and yuur muther aut to noe. She'd never forgiv us if Beth—wel, if anything happened, U noe. So I got grandpa to sae it wuz hie tiem we did sumthing, and off I pelted to th ofis yesterdae, for th doktor luukt soeber, and Hannah moest tuuk mi hed off when I propoezd a telegram. I never can baer to be 'lorded oever;' so that setld mi miend, and I did it. Yuur muther wil cum, I noe, and th laet traen is in at too, a.m. I shal go for her; and U've oenly got to botl up yuur rapcher, and keep Beth qieet, till that blest laedy gets heer."

"Laurie, U're an aenjel! How shal I ever thank U?"

231 "Fli at me again; I rather liek it," sed Laurie, luuking mischivus,—a thing he had not dun for a fortniet.

"No, thank U. I'll do it by proxy, when yuur grandpa cums. Don't teez, but go hoem and rest, for U'll be up haf th niet. Bles U, Teddy, bles U!"

Jo had bakt into a corner; and, as she finisht her speech, she vanisht precipitately into th kichen, whaer she sat doun upon a dreser, and toeld th asembld cats that she wuz "hapy, o, so hapy!" whiel Laurie departed, feeling that he had maed rather a neet thing of it.

"That's th interferingest chap I ever see; but I forgiv him, and do hoep Mrs. March is cuming on riet away," sed Hannah, with an aer of releef, when Jo toeld th guud nues.

Meg had a qieet rapcher, and then brooded oever th leter, whiel Jo set th sik-room in order, and Hannah "nokt up a cupl of pies in caess of company unexpekted." A breth of fresh aer seemd to blo thru th hous, and sumthing beter than sunshine brietend th qieet rooms. Everything apeerd to feel th hoepful chaenj; Beth's burd began to churp again, and a haf-bloen roez wuz discuverd on Amy's bush in th windo; th fiers seemd to burn with uenuezhual cheeriness; and every tiem th gurls met, thaer pale faeses broek into smiels as thae hugd wun anuther, whispering encouragingly, "Muther's cuming, deer! muther's cuming!" Every wun rejoist but Beth; she lae in that hevy stupor, aliek unconshus of hoep and joy, dout and daenjer. It wuz a pitius siet,—th wunss roezy faess so chaenjd and vaecant, th wunss busy hands so week and waested, th wunss smieling lips qiet dum, and th wunss prity, wel-kept haer scaterd ruf and tanggld on th pilo. All dae she lae so, oenly rouzing now and then to muter, "Wauter!" with lips so parched thae cuud hardly shaep th wurd; all dae Jo and Meg huverd oever her, woching, waeting, hoeping, and trusting in God and muther; and all dae th sno fel, th biter wiend raejd, and th ours dragd sloely by. But niet caem at last; and every tiem th clok struk, th sisters, still sitting on eether sied th bed, luukt at eech uther with brietening ies, for eech our brought help neerer. Th doktor had been in to sae that sum chaenj, for 232 beter or wurss, wuud probably taek plaess about midniet, at which tiem he wuud return.

Hannah, qiet worn out, lae doun on th soefa at th bed's fuut, and fel fast asleep; Mr. Laurence marcht to and fro in th parlor, feeling that he wuud rather faess a rebl batery than Mrs. March's anxious countenanss as she entered; Laurie lae on th rug, pretending to rest, but staering into th fier with th thautful luuk which maed his blak ies beautifully soft and cleer.

Th gurls never forgot that niet, for no sleep caem to them as thae kept thaer woch, with that dredful senss of powerlessness which cums to us in ours liek thoes.

"If God spaers Beth I never wil complaen again," whisperd Meg urnestly.

"If God spaers Beth I'll tri to luv and surv Him all mi lief," anserd Jo, with equal furvor.

"I wish I had no hart, it aeks so," sighed Meg, after a pause.

"If lief is ofen as hard as this, I don't see how we ever shal get thru it," aded her sister despondently.

Heer th clok struk twelve, and boeth forgot themselvs in woching Beth, for thae fansyd a chaenj past oever her waan faess. Th hous wuz still as deth, and nuthing but th waeling of th wiend broek th deep hush. Weery Hannah slept on, and no wun but th sisters saw th pale shado which seemd to faul upon th litl bed. An our went by, and nuthing happened exsept Laurie's qieet deparcher for th staeshon. Anuther our,—still no wun caem; and anxious feers of delae in th storm, or accidents by th wae, or, wurst of all, a graet greef at Washington, haunted th puur gurls.

It wuz past too, when Jo, hoo stuud at th windo thinking how dreery th wurld luukt in its wiending-sheet of sno, hurd a moovment by th bed, and, turning qikly, saw Meg neeling befor thaer muther's eezy-chaer, with her faess hiden. A dredful feer past coeldly oever Jo, as she thaut, "Beth is ded, and Meg is afraed to tel me."

She wuz bak at her poest in an instant, and to her exsieted ies a graet chaenj seemd to hav taeken plaess. Th feever flush and th luuk of paen wer gon, and th beluved litl faess luukt so pale 233 and peaceful in its uter repoez, that Jo felt no dezier to weep or to lament. Leening loe oever this deerest of her sisters, she kist th damp forhed with her hart on her lips, and softly whisperd, "Guud-by, mi Beth; guud-by!"

As if waekt by th stur, Hannah started out of her sleep, huryd to th bed, luukt at Beth, felt her hands, lisend at her lips, and then, throeing her apron oever her hed, sat doun to rok to and fro, exclaeming, under her breth, "Th feever's turnd; she's sleepin' nat'ral; her skin's damp, and she breeths eezy. Praez be given! O, mi guudnes me!"

Befor th gurls cuud beleev th hapy trooth, th doktor caem to confurm it. He wuz a hoemly man, but thae thaut his faess qiet hevenly when he smield, and sed, with a faatherly luuk at them, "Yes, mi dears, I think th litl gurl wil puul thru this tiem. Keep th hous qieet; let her sleep, and when she waeks, giv her—"

Whut thae wer to giv, neether hurd; for boeth crept into th dark haul, and, sitting on th staers, held eech uther cloez, rejoising with harts too fuul for wurds. When thae went bak to be kist and cudld by faethful Hannah, thae found Beth lieing, as she uezd to do, with her cheek pillowed on her hand, th dredful palor gon, and breething qieetly, as if just faulen asleep.

"If muther wuud oenly cum now!" sed Jo, as th winter niet began to waen.

"See," sed Meg, cuming up with a whiet, haf-oepend roez, "I thaut this wuud hardly be redy to lae in Beth's hand to-morro if she—went away from us. But it has blossomed in th niet, and now I meen to put it in mi vaess heer, so that when th darling waeks, th furst thing she sees wil be th litl roez, and muther's faess."

Never had th sun rizen so beautifully, and never had th wurld seemd so luvly, as it did to th hevy ies of Meg and Jo, as thae luukt out in th eerly morning, when thaer long, sad vijil wuz dun.

"It luuks liek a faery wurld," sed Meg, smieling to herself, as she stuud behind th curten, woching th dazling siet.

"Hark!" cried Jo, starting to her feet.

Yes, thaer wuz a sound of bels at th dor beloe, a cri from Hannah, and then Laurie's vois saeing, in a joyful whisper, "Gurls, she's cum! she's cum!"


XIX. Amy's Wil.

234

Amy's Will

XIX.

AMY'S Wil.

Whiel thees things wer hapening at hoem, Amy wuz having hard times at Ant March's. She felt her exile deeply, and, for th furst tiem in her lief, reealiezd how much she wuz beluved and peted at hoem. Ant March never peted any wun; she did not aproov of it; but she ment to be kiend, for th wel-behaevd litl gurl pleezd her verry much, and Ant March had a soft plaess in her oeld hart for her nefue's children, tho she didn't think proper to confes it. She reealy did her best to maek Amy hapy, but, deer me, whut mistaeks she maed! Sum oeld peepl keep yung at hart in spiet of rinkls and grae haers, can sympathize with children's litl caers and joys, maek them feel at hoem, and can hied wiez lesons under plezant plaes, giving and reseeving frendship in th sweetest wae. But Ant March had not this gift, and she wuryd Amy verry much with her rools and orders, her prim waes, and long, prosy tauks. 235 Fiending th chield mor docile and aemiabl than her sister, th oeld laedy felt it her duty to tri and counterakt, as far as posibl, th bad efekts of hoem freedom and induljenss. So she tuuk Amy in hand, and taut her as she herself had been taut sixty yeers ago,—a process which carried dismae to Amy's soel, and maed her feel liek a fli in th web of a verry strikt spieder.

Polish up the spoons and the fat silver teapot

She had to wosh th cups every morning, and polish up th oeld-fashond spoons, th fat silver teepot, and th glases, till thae shone. Then she must dust th room, and whut a trieing job that wuz! Not a spek escaept Ant March's ie, and all th furnicher had claw legs, and much carving, which wuz never dusted to suit. Then Polly must be fed, th lap-dog coemd, and a duzen trips upstaers and doun, to get things, or deliver orders, for th oeld laedy wuz verry laem, and seldom left her big chaer. After thees tiersum laebors, she must do her lesons, which wuz a daily trieal of every vurchoo she possessed. Then she wuz alowd wun our for exercise or plae, and didn't she enjoy it? Laurie caem every dae, and wheedld Ant March, till Amy wuz alowd to go out with him, when thae waukt and roed, and had capital times. After diner, she had to red aloud, and sit still whiel th oeld laedy slept, which she 236 uezhualy did for an our, as she dropt off oever th furst paej. Then patchwork or towels apeerd, and Amy soed with outward meeknes and inward rebelyon till dusk, when she wuz alowd to amuez herself as she liked till tee-tiem. Th evenings wer th wurst of all, for Ant March fel to teling long storys about her yooth, which wer so unuterably dul that Amy wuz aulwaes redy to go to bed, intending to cri oever her hard faet, but uezhualy going to sleep befor she had sqeezd out mor than a teer or too.

If it had not been for Laurie, and oeld Esther, th maed, she felt that she never cuud hav got thru that dredful tiem. Th parrot aloen wuz enough to driev her distracted, for he soon felt that she did not admier him, and revenjd himself by being as mischivus as posibl. He puuld her haer whenever she caem neer him, upset his bred and milk to plaeg her when she had nuely cleend his caej, maed Mop bark by pecking at him whiel Madam doezd; called her naems befor company, and behaevd in all respekts liek a reprehensibl oeld burd. Then she cuud not enduur th dog,—a fat, cros beest, hoo snarld and yelpt at her when she maed his toilet, and hoo lae on his bak, with all his legs in th aer and a moest idiotik expreshon of countenanss when he wontedw sumthing to eat, which wuz about a duzen times a dae. Th cuuk wuz bad-temperd, th oeld coachman def, and Esther th oenly wun hoo ever tuuk any noetis of th yung laedy.

On his back, with all his legs in the air

Esther wuz a Frenchwoman, hoo had livd with "Madame," as she called her mistres, for meny yeers, and hoo rather tyrannized oever th oeld laedy, hoo cuud not get along without her. Her reeal 237 naem wuz Estelle, but Ant March orderd her to chaenj it, and she oebaed, on condishon that she wuz never askt to chaenj her relijon. She tuuk a fansy to Mademezel, and amuezd her verry much, with od storys of her lief in France, when Amy sat with her whiel she got up Madame's laeses. She aulso alowd her to roem about th graet hous, and examine th cuerius and prity things stord away in th big wardrobes and th ancient chests; for Ant March horded liek a magpie. Amy's cheef deliet wuz an Indian cabinet, fuul of qeer drawers, litl pijon-hoels, and seecret plaeses, in which wer kept all sorts of ornaments, sum precious, sum meerly cuerius, all mor or les anteek. To examine and araenj thees things gaev Amy graet satisfakshon, especially th jooel-caeses, in which, on velvet cuushons, repoezd th ornaments which had adornd a belle forty yeers ago. Thaer wuz th garnet set which Ant March wor when she caem out, th pearls her faather gaev her on her weding-dae, her luver's diemonds, th jet morning rings and pins, th qeer lokets, 238 with portraits of ded frends, and weeping wiloes maed of haer insied; th baeby braeslets her wun litl dauter had worn; Unkl March's big woch, with th red seel so meny chieldish hands had plaed with, and in a box, all by itself, lae Ant March's weding-ring, too small now for her fat fingger, but put carefully away, liek th moest precious jooel of them all.

I should choose this

"Which wuud Mademezel chooz if she had her wil?" askt Esther, hoo aulwaes sat neer to woch oever and lok up th valueabls.

"I liek th diemonds best, but thaer is no neklas amung them, and I'm fond of neklases, thae ar so becuming. I should chooz this if I miet," replied Amy, luuking with graet admeraeshon at a string of goeld and ebony beeds, from which hung a hevy cros of th saem.

"I, too, cuvet that, but not as a neklas; ah, no! to me it is a roezary, and as such I should uez it liek a guud Catholik," sed Esther, ieing th handsum thing wistfuly.

"Is it ment to uez as U uez th string of guud-smeling wuuden beeds hanging oever yuur glas?" askt Amy.

"Truly, yes, to prae with. It wuud be pleezing to th saents if wun uezd so fien a roezary as this, insted of waering it as a vaen bijou."

"U seem to taek a graet deel of cumfort in yuur praers, Esther, and aulwaes cum doun luuking qieet and satisfied. I wish I cuud."

"If Mademezel wuz a Catholik, she wuud fiend troo cumfort; but, as that is not to be, it wuud be wel if U went apart eech dae, to meditaet and prae, as did th guud mistres hoom I survd befor Madame. She had a litl chapel, and in it found solacement for much trubl."

"Wuud it be riet for me to do so too?" askt Amy, hoo, in her loenlynes, felt th need of help of sum sort, and found that she wuz apt to forget her litl book, now that Beth wuz not thaer to remiend her of it.

"It wuud be exselent and charming; and I shal gladly araenj th litl dresing-room for U if U liek it. Sae nuthing to Madame, but when she sleeps go U and sit aloen a whiel to think guud thoughts, and prae th deer God to prezurv yuur sister."

Esther wuz truly pious, and qiet sincere in her advice; for she 239 had an affectionate hart, and felt much for th sisters in thaer anxiety. Amy liked th iedeea, and gaev her leev to araenj th liet clozet next her room, hoeping it wuud do her guud.

"I wish I knew whaer all thees prity things wuud go when Ant March dies," she sed, as she sloely replaest th shiening roezary, and shut th jooel-caeses wun by wun.

"To U and yuur sisters. I noe it; Madame confieds in me; I witnest her wil, and it is to be so," whisperd Esther, smieling.

"How niess! but I wish she'd let us hav them now. Pro-cras-tee-naeshon is not agreeabl," obzurvd Amy, taeking a last luuk at th diemonds.

"It is too soon yet for th yung laedys to waer thees things. Th furst wun hoo is affianced wil hav th pearls—Madame has sed it; and I hav a fansy that th litl turquoise ring wil be given to U when U go, for Madame aproovs yuur guud behaevyor and charming maners."

"Do U think so? O, I'll be a lam, if I can oenly hav that luvly ring! It's ever so much prityer than Kity Bryant's. I do liek Ant March, after all;" and Amy tried on th bloo ring with a delieted faess, and a furm rezolv to urn it.

From that dae she wuz a model of oebeedi’enss, and th oeld laedy complacently admierd th success of her traening. Esther fited up th clozet with a litl taebl, plaest a fuutstool befor it, and oever it a pikcher taeken from wun of th shut-up rooms. She thaut it wuz of no graet value, but, being aproepriat, she borrowed it, wel noeing that Madame wuud never noe it, nor caer if she did. It wuz, however, a verry valueable copy of wun of th faemus pikchers of th wurld, and Amy's buety-luving ies wer never tierd of luuking up at th sweet faess of th divine muther, whiel tender thoughts of her oen wer busy at her hart. On th taebl she laed her litl Testament and him-book, kept a vaess aulwaes fuul of th best flowers Laurie brought her, and caem every dae to "sit aloen, thinking guud thoughts, and praeing th deer God to prezurv her sister." Esther had given her a roezary of blak beeds, with a silver cros, but Amy hung it up and did not uez it, feeling doubtful as to its fitnes for Protestant praers.

240 Th litl gurl wuz verry sincere in all this, for, being left aloen outsied th saef hoem-nest, she felt th need of sum kiend hand to hoeld by so sorly, that she instinktivly turnd to th strong and tender Frend, hoos faatherly luv moest cloesly serounds his litl children. She mist her muther's help to understand and rool herself, but having been taut whaer to luuk, she did her best to fiend th wae, and wauk in it confidingly. But Amy wuz a yung pilgrim, and just now her burden seemd verry hevy. She tried to forget herself, to keep cheerful, and be satisfied with dooing riet, tho no wun saw or praezd her for it. In her furst efort at being verry, verry guud, she desieded to maek her wil, as Ant March had dun; so that if she did faul il and die, her possessions miet be justly and jenerusly divided. It cost her a pang eeven to think of giving up th litl treasures which in her ies wer as precious as th oeld laedy's jooels.

Duuring wun of her plae-ours she roet out th important docuement as wel as she cuud, with sum help from Esther as to surten leegal turms, and, when th guud-naecherd Frenchwoman had siend her naem, Amy felt releevd, and laed it by to sho Laurie, hoom she wontedw as a second witnes. As it wuz a raeny dae, she went upstaers to amuez herself in wun of th larj chaembers, and tuuk Polly with her for company. In this room thaer wuz a wardrobe fuul of oeld-fashond costumes, with which Esther alowd her to plae, and it wuz her faevorit amuezment to arae herself in th faeded broekaeds, and parade up and doun befor th long miror, maeking stately courtesies, and sweeping her traen about, with a rusl which delieted her eers. So busy wuz she on this dae that she did not heer Laurie's ring, nor see his faess peeping in at her, as she gravely promenaded to and fro, flurting her fan and tosing her hed, on which she wor a graet pink turban, contrasting odly with her bloo broekaed dres and yelo qilted petticoat. She wuz obliejd to wauk carefully, for she had on hie-heeld shoos, and, as Laurie toeld Jo afterward, it wuz a comikal siet to see her minss along in her gae suit, with Polly sidling and bridling just behind her, imitaeting her as wel as he cuud, and ocaezhonaly stoping to laf or exclaem, "Ain't we fien? Get along, U friet! Hoeld yuur tung! Kis me, deer! Haa! haa!"

Gravely promenaded to and fro

Having with dificulty restraend an exploezhon of merriment, lest it 241 should ofend her majestys, Laurie tapt, and wuz graeshusly reseevd.

"Sit doun and rest whiel I put thees things away; then I wont to consult U about a verry seerius mater," sed Amy, when she had shoen her splendor, and driven Polly into a corner. "That burd is th trieal of mi lief," she continued, remooving th pink mounten from her hed, whiel Laurie seeted himself astried of a chaer. "Yesterdae, when ant wuz asleep, and I wuz trieing to be as still as a mous, Polly began to squall and flap about in his caej; so I went to let him out, and found a big spieder thaer. I poekt it out, and it ran under th bookcase; Polly marcht straet after it, stoopt doun and peept under th bookcase, saeing, in his funy wae, with a cok of his ie, 'Cum out and taek a wauk, mi deer.' I couldn't help lafing, which maed Poel swear, and ant woek up and scoelded us boeth."

242 "Did th spieder accept th oeld felo's invitaeshon?" askt Laurie, yauning.

"Yes; out it caem, and away ran Polly, frietend to deth, and scrambld up on ant's chaer, calling out, 'Cach her! cach her! cach her!' as I chaest th spieder.

"That's a lie! O lor!" cried th parrot, pecking at Laurie's toes.

"I'd ring yuur nek if U wer mien, U oeld torment," cried Laurie, shaeking his fist at th burd, hoo put his hed on wun sied, and gravely croekt, "Allyluyer! bles yuur butons, deer!"

"Now I'm redy," sed Amy, shutting th wardrobe, and taeking a paeper out of her poket. "I wont U to red that, pleez, and tel me if it is leegal and riet. I felt that I aut to do it, for lief is unsurten and I don't wont any il-feeling oever mi toom."

Amy's Will

Laurie bit his lips, and turning a litl from th pensiv speeker, red th foloeing docuement, with praiseworthy gravity, considering th speling:—

"Mi LAST Wil AND TESTIMENT.

"I, Amy Curtis March, being in mi saen miend, do giv and bequeethe all mi urthly property—viz. to wit:—naemly

"To mi faather, mi best pikchers, skeches, maps, and wurks of art, inclooding fraems. Aulso mi $100, to do whut he lieks with.

"To mi muther, all mi cloeths, exsept th bloo apron with pokets,—aulso mi lieknes, and mi medal, with much luv.

"To mi deer sister Margaret, I giv mi turkquoise ring (if I get it), aulso mi green box with th duvs on it, aulso mi peess of reeal laess for her nek, and mi skech of her as a memorial of her 'litl gurl.'

"To Jo I leev mi breast-pin, th wun mended with seeling wax, aulso mi bronze inkstand—she lost th cuver—and mi moest precious plaster rabit, because I am sorry I burnt up her story.

"To Beth (if she lievs after me) I giv mi dols and th litl bureau, mi fan, mi linen collars and mi nue slipers if she can waer them being thin when she gets wel. And I heerwith aulso leev her mi regret that I ever maed fun of oeld Joanna.

243 "To mi frend and naebor Theodore Laurence I bequeethe mi paeper marshay portfolio, mi clay model of a horss tho he did sae it hadn't any nek. Aulso in return for his graet kiendnes in th our of aflikshon any wun of mi artistik wurks he lieks, Noter Daem is th best.

"To our venerable benefaktor Mr. Laurence I leev mi purpl box with a luuking glas in th cuver which wil be niess for his pens and remiend him of th departed gurl hoo thanks him for his faevors to her family, speshaly Beth.

"I wish mi faevorit playmate Kity Bryant to hav th bloo silk apron and mi goeld-beed ring with a kis.

244 "To Hannah I giv th bandbox she wontedw and all th pach wurk I leev hoeping she 'wil remember me, when it U see.'

"And now having dispoezd of mi moest valueable property I hoep all wil be satisfied and not blaem th ded. I forgiv every wun, and trust we mae all meet when th trump shal sound. Aaamen.

"To this wil and testiment I set mi hand and seel on this 20th dae of Nov. Anni Domino 1861.

"Amy Curtis March.

"Witneses: { Estelle Valnor,
Theodore Laurence."

Th last naem wuz riten in pensil, and Amy explaend that he wuz to re-riet it in ink, and seel it up for her properly.

"Whut put it into yuur hed? Did any wun tel U about Beth's giving away her things?" askt Laurie soeberly, as Amy laed a bit of red taep, with seeling-wax, a taeper, and a standish befor him.

She explaend; and then askt anxiously, "Whut about Beth?"

"I'm sorry I spoek; but as I did, I'll tel U. She felt so il wun dae that she toeld Jo she wontedw to giv her piano to Meg, her cats to U, and th puur oeld dol to Jo, hoo wuud luv it for her saek. She wuz sorry she had so litl to giv, and left loks of haer to th rest of us, and her best luv to grandpa. She never thaut of a wil."

Laurie wuz siening and seeling as he spoek, and did not luuk up till a graet teer dropt on th paeper. Amy's faess wuz fuul of trubl; but she oenly sed, "Don't peepl put sort of postscripts to thaer wils, sumtiems?"

"Yes; 'codicils,' thae call them."

"Put wun in mien then—that I wish all mi curls cut off, and given round to mi frends. I forgot it; but I wont it dun, tho it wil spoil mi luuks."

Laurie aded it, smieling at Amy's last and graetest sacrifiess. Then he amuezd her for an our, and wuz much interested in all her trieals. But when he caem to go, Amy held him bak to whisper, with trembling lips, "Is thaer reealy any daenjer about Beth?"

"I'm afraed thaer is; but we must hoep for th best, so don't cri, 245 deer;" and Laurie put his arm about her with a brutherly jescher which wuz verry cumforting.

When he had gon, she went to her litl chapel, and, sitting in th twilight, praed for Beth, with streeming teers and an aeking hart, feeling that a milyon turquoise rings wuud not consoel her for th lost of her jentl litl sister.

Tail-piece

XX. Confidenshal.

246

Mrs. March would not leave Beth's side

XX.

Confidenshal.

I don't think I hav any wurds in which to tel th meeting of th muther and dauters; such ours ar buetiful to liv, but verry hard to descrieb, so I wil leev it to th imajinaeshon of mi reeders, meerly saeing that th hous wuz fuul of jenuein hapynes, and that Meg's tender hoep wuz reealiezd; for when Beth woek from that long, heeling sleep, th furst objekts on which her ies fel wer th litl roez and muther's faess. Too week to wunder at anything, she oenly smield, and nesld cloez into th luving arms about her, feeling that th hunggry longing wuz satisfied at last. Then she slept again, and th gurls waeted upon thaer muther, for she wuud not unclasp th thin hand which clung to hers eeven in sleep. Hannah had "disht up" an astonishing brekfast for th traveller, fiending it imposibl to vent 247 her exsietment in any uther wae; and Meg and Jo fed thaer muther liek dutiful yung storks, whiel thae lisend to her whisperd account of faather's staet, Mr. Brooke's promis to stae and nurss him, th delaes which th storm ocaezhond on th hoemward jurny, and th unspeekabl cumfort Laurie's hoepful faess had given her when she arrived, worn out with fateeg, anxiety, and coeld.

Whut a straenj, yet plezant dae that wuz! so brilliant and gae without, for all th wurld seemd abraud to welcum th furst sno; so qieet and reposeful within, for every wun slept, spent with woching, and a Sabath stillness raend thru th hous, whiel noding Hannah mounted gard at th dor. With a blissful senss of burdens lifted off, Meg and Jo cloezd thaer weery ies, and lae at rest, liek storm-beeten boets, saef at ancor in a qieet harbor. Mrs. March wuud not leev Beth's sied, but rested in th big chaer, waeking ofen to luuk at, tuch, and brood oever her chield, liek a miezer oever sum recuverd treasure.

Laurie, meenwhiel, poested off to cumfort Amy, and toeld his story so wel that Ant March akchualy "snift" herself, and never wunss sed, "I toeld U so." Amy caem out so strong on this ocaezhon that I think th guud thoughts in th litl chapel reealy began to baer froot. She dried her teers qikly, restraend her impaeshenss to see her muther, and never eeven thaut of th turquoise ring, when th oeld laedy hartily agreed in Laurie's opinyon, that she behaevd "liek a capital litl wuuman." Eeven Polly seemd imprest, for he called her "guud gurl," blest her butons, and begd her to "cum and taek a wauk, deer," in his moest affable toen. She wuud verry gladly hav gon out to enjoy th briet wintry wether; but, discuvering that Laurie wuz droping with sleep in spiet of manful eforts to conceal th fakt, she persuaded him to rest on th soefa, whiel she roet a noet to her muther. She wuz a long tiem about it; and, when she returnd, he wuz strecht out, with boeth arms under his hed, sound asleep, whiel Ant March had puuld doun th curtens, and sat dooing nuthing in an uenuezhual fit of benignity.

After a whiel, thae began to think he wuz not going to waek till niet, and I'm not shuur that he wuud, had he not been effectually rouzd by Amy's cri of joy at siet of her muther. Thaer probably 248 wer a guud meny hapy litl gurls in and about th sity that dae, but it is mi private opinyon that Amy wuz th hapyest of all, when she sat in her muther's lap and toeld her trieals, reseeving consolaeshon and compensaeshon in th shaep of aprooving smiels and fond caresses. Thae wer aloen together in th chapel, to which her muther did not objekt when its purpos wuz explaend to her.

"On th contraery, I liek it verry much, deer," luuking from th dusty roezary to th wel-worn litl book, and th luvly pikcher with its garland of evergreen. "It is an exselent plan to hav sum plaess whaer we can go to be qieet, when things vex or greev us. Thaer ar a guud meny hard times in this lief of ours, but we can aulwaes baer them if we ask help in th riet wae. I think mi litl gurl is lurning this?"

"Yes, muther; and when I go hoem I meen to hav a corner in th big clozet to put mi books, and th copy of that pikcher which I've tried to maek. Th wuuman's faess is not guud,—it's too buetiful for me to draw,—but th baeby is dun beter, and I luv it verry much. I liek to think He wuz a litl chield wunss, for then I don't seem so far away, and that helps me."

As Amy pointed to th smieling Christ-chield on his muther's nee, Mrs. March saw sumthing on th lifted hand that maed her smiel. She sed nuthing, but Amy understuud th luuk, and, after a mienuet's pause, she aded gravely,—

"I wontedw to speek to U about this, but I forgot it. Ant gaev me th ring to-dae; she called me to her and kist me, and put it on mi fingger, and sed I wuz a credit to her, and she'd liek to keep me aulwaes. She gaev that funy gard to keep th turquoise on, as it's too big. I'd liek to waer them, muther; can I?"

"Thae ar verry prity, but I think U're rather too yung for such ornaments, Amy," sed Mrs. March, luuking at th plump litl hand, with th band of ski-bloo stoens on th forfingger, and th qaent gard, formd of too tieny, goelden hands clasped together.

"I'll tri not to be vaen," sed Amy. "I don't think I liek it oenly because it's so prity; but I wont to waer it as th gurl in th story wor her braeslet, to remiend me of sumthing."

"Do U meen Ant March?" askt her muther, lafing.

249 "No, to remiend me not to be selfish." Amy luukt so urnest and sincere about it, that her muther stopt lafing, and lisend respektfuly to th litl plan.

"I've thaut a graet deel laetly about mi 'bundle of naughties,' and being selfish is th larjest wun in it; so I'm going to tri hard to cuer it, if I can. Beth isn't selfish, and that's th reezon every wun luvs her and feels so bad at th thoughts of loozing her. Peepl wouldn't feel haf so bad about me if I wuz sik, and I don't dezurv to hav them; but I'd liek to be luvd and mist by a graet meny frends, so I'm going to tri and be liek Beth all I can. I'm apt to forget mi rezolooshons; but if I had sumthing aulwaes about me to remiend me, I ges I should do beter. Mae I tri this wae?"

"Yes; but I hav mor faeth in th corner of th big clozet. Waer yuur ring, deer, and do yuur best; I think U wil prosper, for th sincere wish to be guud is haf th batl. Now I must go bak to Beth. Keep up yuur hart, litl dauter, and we wil soon hav U hoem again."

That evening, whiel Meg wuz rieting to her faather, to report th traveller's saef arrival, Jo slipt up staers into Beth's room, and, fiending her muther in her uezhual plaess, stuud a mienuet twisting her finggers in her haer, with a wuryd jescher and an undecided luuk.

"Whut is it, deary?" askt Mrs. March, hoelding out her hand, with a faess which invieted confidenss.

"I wont to tel U sumthing, muther."

"About Meg?"

"How qikly U guessed! Yes, it's about her, and tho it's a litl thing, it fijets me."

"Beth is asleep; speek loe, and tel me all about it. That Moffat hasn't been heer, I hoep?" askt Mrs. March rather sharply.

"No, I should hav shut th dor in his faess if he had," sed Jo, setling herself on th flor at her muther's feet. "Last sumer Meg left a paer of gluvs oever at th Laurences', and oenly wun wuz returnd. We forgot all about it, till Teddy toeld me that Mr. Brooke had it. He kept it in his waestcoet poket, and wunss it fel out, and Teddy joekt him about it, and Mr. Brooke oend that he liked Meg, but didn't daer sae so, she wuz so yung and he so puur. Now, isn't it a dredful staet of things?"

250 "Do U think Meg caers for him?" askt Mrs. March, with an anxious luuk.

"Mursy me! I don't noe anything about luv and such nonsenss!" cried Jo, with a funy mixcher of interest and contempt. "In novels, th gurls sho it by starting and blushing, faenting away, groeing thin, and akting liek fools. Now Meg duz not do anything of th sort: she eets and drinks and sleeps, liek a sensibl creecher: she luuks straet in mi faess when I tauk about that man, and oenly blushes a litl bit when Teddy joeks about luvers. I forbid him to do it, but he doesn't miend me as he aut."

"Then U fansy that Meg is not interested in John?"

"Hoo?" cried Jo, staering.

"Mr. Brooke. I call him 'John' now; we fel into th wae of dooing so at th hospital, and he lieks it."

"O, deer! I noe U'll taek his part: he's been guud to faather, and U wun't send him away, but let Meg marry him, if she wonts to. Meen thing! to go peting papa and helping U, just to wheedl U into lieking him;" and Jo puuld her haer again with a rathful tweak.

"Mi deer, don't get anggry about it, and I wil tel U how it happened. John went with me at Mr. Laurence's reqest, and wuz so devoeted to puur faather that we couldn't help geting fond of him. He wuz perfectly oepen and onorabl about Meg, for he toeld us he luvd her, but wuud urn a comfortable hoem befor he askt her to marry him. He oenly wontedw our leev to luv her and wurk for her, and th riet to maek her luv him if he cuud. He is a truly exselent yung man, and we cuud not refuez to lisen to him; but I wil not consent to Meg's engaejing herself so yung."

"Of corss not; it wuud be idiotik! I knew thaer wuz mischif brewing; I felt it; and now it's wurss than I imajind. I just wish I cuud marry Meg mieself, and keep her saef in th family."

This od araenjment maed Mrs. March smiel; but she sed gravely, "Jo, I confied in U, and don't wish U to sae anything to Meg yet. When John cums bak, and I see them together, I can juj beter of her feelings tord him."

"She'll see his in thoes handsum ies that she tauks about, and 251 then it wil be all up with her. She's got such a soft hart, it wil melt liek buter in th sun if any wun luuks sentimentaly at her. She red th short reports he sent mor than she did yuur leters, and pincht me when I spoek of it, and lieks broun ies, and doesn't think John an ugly naem, and she'll go and faul in luv, and thaer's an end of peess and fun, and cosy times together. I see it all! thae'll go lovering around th hous, and we shal hav to doj; Meg wil be absorbd, and no guud to me any mor; Brooke wil scrach up a forchun sumhow, carry her off, and maek a hoel in th family; and I shal braek mi hart, and everything wil be abominably uncumfortabl. O, deer me! whi weren't we all boys, then thaer wouldn't be any bother."

Jo leend her chin on her nees, in a disconsolat atitued, and shuuk her fist at th reprehensibl John. Mrs. March sighed, and Jo luukt up with an aer of releef.

"U don't liek it, muther? I'm glad of it. Let's send him about his business, and not tel Meg a wurd of it, but all be hapy together as we aulwaes hav been."

"I did rong to sie, Jo. It is nacheral and riet U should all go to hoems of yuur oen, in tiem; but I do wont to keep mi gurls as long as I can; and I am sorry that this happened so soon, for Meg is oenly seventeen, and it wil be sum yeers befor John can maek a hoem for her. Yuur faather and I hav agreed that she shal not biend herself in any wae, nor be marryd, befor twenty. If she and John luv wun anuther, thae can waet, and test th luv by dooing so. She is conscientious, and I hav no feer of her treating him unkiendly. Mi prity, tender-hearted gurl! I hoep things wil go hapily with her."

"Hadn't U rather hav her marry a rich man?" askt Jo, as her muther's vois faulterd a litl oever th last wurds.

"Muny is a guud and uesful thing, Jo; and I hoep mi gurls wil never feel th need of it too biterly, nor be tempted by too much. I should liek to noe that John wuz furmly established in sum guud business, which gaev him an incum larj enough to keep free from det and maek Meg comfortable. I'm not ambishus for a splendid forchun, a fashonabl pozishon, or a graet naem for mi gurls. If rank 252 and muny cum with luv and vurchoo, aulso, I should accept them graetfuly, and enjoy yuur guud forchun; but I noe, by expeeri’enss, how much jenuein hapynes can be had in a plaen litl hous, whaer th daily bred is urnd, and sum privations giv sweetness to th fue plezhers. I am content to see Meg begin humbly, for, if I am not mistaeken, she wil be rich in th possession of a guud man's hart, and that is beter than a forchun."

"I understand, muther, and qiet agree; but I'm disapointed about Meg, for I'd pland to hav her marry Teddy by and by, and sit in th lap of lukshery all her daes. Wouldn't it be niess?" askt Jo, luuking up, with a brieter faess.

"He is yungger than she, U noe," began Mrs. March; but Jo broek in,—

"Oenly a litl; he's oeld for his aej, and taul; and can be qiet groen-up in his maners if he lieks. Then he's rich and jenerus and guud, and luvs us all; and I sae it's a pity mi plan is spoilt."

"I'm afraed Laurie is hardly groen up enough for Meg, and aultogether too much of a wethercok, just now, for any wun to depend on. Don't maek plans, Jo; but let tiem and thaer oen harts maet yuur frends. We can't medl saefly in such maters, and had beter not get 'roemantik rubish,' as U call it, into our heds, lest it spoil our frendship."

"Wel, I wun't; but I haet to see things going all criss-cros and geting snarld up, when a puul heer and a snip thaer wuud straeten it out. I wish waering flat-ieerns on our heds wuud keep us from groeing up. But buds wil be roezes, and kitens, cats,—mor's th pity!"

"Whut's that about flat-ieerns and cats?" askt Meg, as she crept into th room, with th finisht leter in her hand.

"Oenly wun of mi stoopid speeches. I'm going to bed; cum, Peggy," sed Jo, unfoelding herself, liek an animaeted puzzle.

"Qiet riet, and beautifully riten. Pleez ad that I send mi luv to John," sed Mrs. March, as she glanst oever th leter, and gaev it bak.

"Do U call him 'John'?" askt Meg, smieling, with her inosent ies luuking doun into her muther's.

253 "Yes; he has been liek a sun to us, and we ar verry fond of him," replied Mrs. March, returning th luuk with a keen wun.

"I'm glad of that, he is so loenly. Guud-niet, muther, deer. It is so inexpresibly comfortable to hav U heer," wuz Meg's qieet anser.

Th kis her muther gaev her wuz a verry tender wun; and, as she went away, Mrs. March sed, with a mixcher of satisfakshon and regret, "She duz not luv John yet, but wil soon lurn to."

Tail-piece

XXI. Laurie maeks Mischif, and Jo maeks Peess.

254

Letters

XXI.

LAURIE Maeks Mischif, AND JO Maeks Peess.

Jo's faess wuz a study next dae, for th seecret rather waed upon her, and she found it hard not to luuk misteerius and important. Meg obzurvd it, but did not trubl herself to maek inqierys, for she had lurnd that th best wae to manej Jo wuz by th law of contraries, so she felt shuur of being toeld everything if she did not ask. She wuz rather serpriezd, thaerfor, when th silence remaend unbroeken, and Jo asuemd a patronizing aer, which decidedly aggravated Meg, hoo in her turn asuemd an aer of dignified rezurv, and devoeted herself to her muther. This left Jo to her oen devieses; for Mrs. March had taeken her plaess as nurss, and bade her rest, exercise, and amuez herself after her long confienment. Amy being gon, Laurie wuz her 255 oenly refuej; and, much as she enjoyd his soesieety, she rather dreded him just then, for he wuz an incorijibl teez, and she feerd he wuud coex her seecret from her.

She wuz qiet riet, for th mischif-luving lad no sooner suspekted a mistery than he set himself to fiend it out, and led Jo a trieing lief of it. He wheedld, bribed, ridicueld, thretend, and scoelded; affected indiferens, that he miet serpriez th trooth from her; declaerd he knew, then that he didn't caer; and, at last, by dint of perseverance, he satisfied himself that it concerned Meg and Mr. Brooke. Feeling indignant that he wuz not taeken into his tuetor's confidenss, he set his wits to wurk to deviez sum proper retaliaeshon for th sliet.

Meg meenwhiel had apparently forgoten th mater, and wuz absorbd in preparaeshons for her faather's return; but all of a suden a chaenj seemd to cum oever her, and, for a dae or too, she wuz qiet unliek herself. She started when spoeken to, blushed when luukt at, wuz verry qieet, and sat oever her soeing, with a timid, trubld luuk on her faess. To her muther's inqierys she anserd that she wuz qiet wel, and Jo's she silenced by beging to be let aloen.

"She feels it in th aer—luv, I meen—and she's going verry fast. She's got moest of th symptoms,—is twittery and cros, doesn't eat, lies awake, and moeps in corners. I caut her singing that song he gaev her, and wunss she sed 'John,' as U do, and then turnd as red as a popy. Whotever shal we do?" sed Jo, luuking redy for any mezhers, however vieolent.

"Nuthing but waet. Let her aloen, be kiend and paeshent, and faather's cuming wil setl everything," replied her muther.

"Heer's a noet to U, Meg, all seeld up. How od! Teddy never seels mien," sed Jo, next dae, as she distributed th contents of th litl poest-ofis.

Mrs. March and Jo wer deep in thaer oen affairs, when a sound from Meg maed them luuk up to see her staering at her noet, with a frietend faess.

"Mi chield, whut is it?" cried her muther, runing to her, whiel Jo tried to taek th paeper which had dun th mischif.

256 "It's all a mistaek—he didn't send it. O Jo, how cuud U do it?" and Meg hid her faess in her hands, crieing as if her hart wuz qiet broeken.

"Me! I've dun nuthing! Whut's she tauking about?" cried Jo, bewildered.

Meg's mield ies kindld with angger as she puuld a crumpld noet from her poket, and throo it at Jo, saeing reproechfuly,—

"U roet it, and that bad boy helpt U. How cuud U be so rood, so meen, and crooel to us boeth?"

Jo hardly hurd her, for she and her muther wer reeding th noet, which wuz riten in a peculiar hand.

Jo and her mother were reading the note

257

"Mi Deerest Margaret,—

"I can no longer restraen mi pashon, and must noe mi faet befor I return. I daer not tel yuur paerents yet, but I think thae wuud consent if thae knew that we adord wun anuther. Mr. Laurence wil help me to sum guud plaess, and then, mi sweet gurl, U wil maek me hapy. I implor U to sae nuthing to yuur family yet, but to send wun wurd of hoep thru Laurie to

"Yuur devoeted John."

"O, th litl vilan! that's th wae he ment to pae me for keeping mi wurd to muther. I'll giv him a harty scoelding, and bring him oever to beg pardon," cried Jo, burning to exsecuet imeediat justis. But her muther held her bak, saeing, with a luuk she seldom wor,—

"Stop, Jo, U must cleer yuurself furst. U hav plaed so meny pranks, that I am afraed U hav had a hand in this."

"On mi wurd, muther, I haeven't! I never saw that noet befor, and don't noe anything about it, as troo as I liv!" sed Jo, so urnestly that thae beleevd her. "If I had taeken a part in it I'd hav dun it beter than this, and hav riten a sensibl noet. I should think U'd hav noen Mr. Brooke wouldn't riet such stuf as that," she aded, scornfuly tosing doun th paeper.

"It's liek his rieting," faulterd Meg, compaering it with th noet in her hand.

"O Meg, U didn't anser it?" cried Mrs. March qikly.

"Yes, I did!" and Meg hid her faess again, oevercum with shaem.

"Heer's a scraep! Do let me bring that wiked boy oever to explaen, and be lectured. I can't rest till I get hoeld of him;" and Jo maed for th dor again.

"Hush! let me manej this, for it is wurss than I thaut. Margaret, tel me th hoel story," comanded Mrs. March, sitting doun by Meg, yet keeping hoeld of Jo, lest she should fli off.

"I reseevd th furst leter from Laurie, hoo didn't luuk as if he knew anything about it," began Meg, without luuking up. "I wuz wuryd at furst, and ment to tel U; then I rememberd how U liked Mr. Brooke, so I thaut U wouldn't miend if I kept mi litl seecret 258 for a fue daes. I'm so sily that I liked to think no wun knew; and, whiel I wuz desieding whut to sae, I felt liek th gurls in books, hoo hav such things to do. Forgiv me, muther, I'm paed for mi silliness now; I never can luuk him in th faess again."

"Whut did U sae to him?" askt Mrs. March.

"I oenly sed I wuz too yung to do anything about it yet; that I didn't wish to hav seecrets from U, and he must speek to faather. I wuz verry graetful for his kiendnes, and wuud be his frend, but nuthing mor, for a long whiel."

Mrs. March smield, as if wel pleezd, and Jo clapt her hands, exclaeming, with a laf,—

"U ar aulmoest equal to Caroline Percy, hoo wuz a patern of prudence! Tel on, Meg. Whut did he sae to that?"

"He riets in a diferent wae entierly, teling me that he never sent any luv-leter at all, and is verry sorry that mi roegish sister, Jo, should taek such libertys with our naems. It's verry kiend and respektful, but think how dredful for me!"

Meg leend against her muther, luuking th imej of despaer, and Jo trampt about th room, calling Laurie naems. All of a suden she stopt, caut up th too noets, and, after luuking at them cloesly, sed decidedly, "I don't beleev Brooke ever saw eether of thees leters. Teddy roet boeth, and keeps yuurs to cro oever me with, because I wouldn't tel him mi seecret."

"Don't hav any seecrets, Jo; tel it to muther, and keep out of trubl, as I should hav dun," sed Meg warningly.

"Bles U, chield! Muther toeld me."

"That wil do, Jo. I'll cumfort Meg whiel U go and get Laurie. I shal sift th mater to th bottom, and put a stop to such pranks at wunss."

Away ran Jo, and Mrs. March jently toeld Meg Mr. Brooke's reeal feelings. "Now, deer, whut ar yuur oen? Do U luv him enough to waet till he can maek a hoem for U, or wil U keep yuurself qiet free for th prezent?"

"I've been so scaerd and wuryd, I don't wont to hav anything to do with luvers for a long whiel,—perhaps never," anserd Meg petulantly. "If John doesn't noe anything about this nonsenss, 259 don't tel him, and maek Jo and Laurie hoeld thaer tungs. I wun't be deseevd and plaegd and maed a fool of,—it's a shaem!"

Seeing that Meg's uezhualy jentl temper wuz rouzd and her pride hurt by this mischivus joek, Mrs. March soothd her by promises of entier silence, and graet discreshon for th fuecher. Th instant Laurie's step wuz hurd in th haul, Meg fled into th study, and Mrs. March reseevd th culprit aloen. Jo had not toeld him whi he wuz wontedw, feering he wouldn't cum; but he knew th mienuet he saw Mrs. March's faess, and stuud twirling his hat, with a guilty aer which convikted him at wunss. Jo wuz dismist, but choez to march up and doun th haul liek a sentinel, having sum feer that th prizoner miet bolt. Th sound of voises in th parlor roez and fel for haf an our; but whut happened duuring that intervue th gurls never knew.

When thae wer called in, Laurie wuz standing by thaer muther, with such a penitent faess that Jo forgaev him on th spot, but did not think it wiez to betrae th fakt. Meg reseevd his humbl apolojy, and wuz much cumforted by th assurance that Brooke knew nuthing of th joek.

"I'll never tel him to mi dieing dae,—wield horses sha'n't drag it out of me; so U'll forgiv me, Meg, and I'll do anything to sho how out-and-out sorry I am," he aded, luuking verry much ashamed of himself.

"I'll tri; but it wuz a verry ungentlemanly thing to do. I didn't think U cuud be so sli and malishus, Laurie," replied Meg, trieing to hied her maedenly confuezhon under a gravely reproechful aer.

"It wuz aultogether abominabl, and I don't dezurv to be spoeken to for a munth; but U wil, tho, wun't U?" and Laurie foelded his hands together with such an imploring jescher, as he spoek in his irezistibly persuasive toen, that it wuz imposibl to froun upon him, in spiet of his scandalus behaevyor. Meg pardoned him, and Mrs. March's graev faess relaxt, in spiet of her eforts to keep soeber, when she hurd him declaer that he wuud atone for his sins by all sorts of penanses, and abaess himself liek a wurm befor th injerd damsel.

Jo stuud aloof, meenwhiel, trieing to harden her hart against him, and succeeding oenly in primming up her faess into an expreshon of entier disapprobation. Laurie luukt at her wunss or twice, but, as she 260 shoed no sien of relenting, he felt injerd, and turnd his bak on her till th others wer dun with him, when he maed her a loe boe, and waukt off without a wurd.

As soon as he had gon, she wisht she had been mor forgiving; and when Meg and her muther went upstaers, she felt loenly, and longed for Teddy. After rezisting for sum tiem, she yeelded to th impulss, and, armd with a book to return, went oever to th big hous.

"Is Mr. Laurence in?" askt Jo, of a housmaed, hoo wuz cuming doun staers.

"Yes, mis; but I don't beleev he's seeable just yet."

"Whi not? is he il?"

"Laa, no, mis, but he's had a seen with Mr. Laurie, hoo is in wun of his tantrums about sumthing, which vexes th oeld jentlman, so I dursn't go nie him."

"Whaer is Laurie?"

"Shut up in his room, and he wun't anser, tho I've been a-taping. I don't noe whut's to becum of th diner, for it's redy, and thaer's no wun to eat it."

"I'll go and see whut th mater is. I'm not afraed of eether of them."

Up went Jo, and nokt smartly on th dor of Laurie's litl study.

"Stop that, or I'll oepen th dor and maek U!" called out th yung jentlman, in a thretening toen.

Jo imeediatly nokt again; th dor floo oepen, and in she bounst, befor Laurie cuud recuver from his serpriez. Seeing that he reealy wuz out of temper, Jo, hoo knew how to manej him, asuemd a contriet expreshon, and going artistikaly doun upon her nees, sed meekly, "Pleez forgiv me for being so cros. I caem to maek it up, and can't go away till I hav."

"It's all riet. Get up, and don't be a gooss, Jo," wuz th cavalier replie to her petition.

Get up and don't be a goose

"Thank U; I wil. Cuud I ask whut's th mater? U don't luuk exaktly eezy in yuur miend."

"I've been shaeken, and I wun't baer it!" grould Laurie indignantly.

261 "Hoo did it?" demanded Jo.

"Grandfaather; if it had been any wun else I'd hav—" and th injerd yooth finisht his sentenss by an enerjetik jescher of th riet arm.

"That's nuthing; I ofen shaek U, and U don't miend," sed Jo soothingly.

"Pooh! U're a gurl, and it's fun; but I'll alow no man to shaek me."

"I don't think any wun wuud caer to tri it, if U luukt as much liek a thunder-cloud as U do now. Whi wer U treated so?"

"Just because I wouldn't sae whut yuur muther wontedw me for. I'd promist not to tel, and of corss I wasn't going to braek mi wurd."

262 "Couldn't U satisfi yuur grandpa in any uther wae?"

"No; he wuud hav th trooth, th hoel trooth, and nuthing but th trooth. I'd hav toeld mi part of th scraep, if I cuud without bringing Meg in. As I couldn't, I held mi tung, and bor th scoelding till th oeld jentlman collared me. Then I got anggry, and bolted, for feer I should forget mieself."

"It wasn't niess, but he's sorry, I noe; so go doun and maek up. I'll help U."

"Hangd if I do! I'm not going to be lectured and pummelled by every wun, just for a bit of a frolik. I wuz sorry about Meg, and begd pardon liek a man; but I wun't do it again, when I wasn't in th rong."

"He didn't noe that."

"He aut to trust me, and not akt as if I wuz a baeby. It's no uez, Jo; he's got to lurn that I'm aebl to taek caer of mieself, and don't need any wun's apron-string to hoeld on by."

"Whut peper-pots U ar!" sighed Jo. "How do U meen to setl this affair?"

"Wel, he aut to beg pardon, and beleev me when I sae I can't tel him whut th fus's about."

"Bles U! he wun't do that."

"I wun't go doun till he duz."

"Now, Teddy, be sensibl; let it pas, and I'll explaen whut I can. U can't stae heer, so whut's th uez of being melodramatik?"

"I don't intend to stae heer long, any wae. I'll slip off and taek a jurny sumwhaer, and when grandpa mises me he'll cum round fast enough."

"I daer sae; but U aut not to go and wury him."

"Don't preech. I'll go to Washington and see Brooke; it's gae thaer, and I'll enjoy mieself after th trubls."

"Whut fun U'd hav! I wish I cuud run off too," sed Jo, forgeting her part of Mentor in lievly vizhons of marshal lief at th capital.

"Cum on, then! Whi not? U go and serpriez yuur faather, and I'll stur up oeld Brooke. It wuud be a glorius joek; let's do it, Jo. We'll leev a leter saeing we ar all riet, and trot off at wunss. 263 I've got muny enough; it wil do U guud, and be no harm, as U go to yuur faather."

For a moement Jo luukt as if she wuud agree; for, wield as th plan wuz, it just suited her. She wuz tierd of caer and confienment, longed for chaenj, and thoughts of her faather blended temptingly with th novel charms of camps and hospitals, liberty and fun. Her ies kindld as thae turnd wistfuly tord th windo, but thae fel on th oeld hous opozit, and she shuuk her hed with sorroeful desizhon.

"If I wuz a boy, we'd run away together, and hav a capital tiem; but as I'm a mizerabl gurl, I must be proper, and stop at hoem. Don't tempt me, Teddy, it's a craezy plan."

"That's th fun of it," began Laurie, hoo had got a wilful fit on him, and wuz possessed to braek out of bounds in sum wae.

264 "Hoeld yuur tung!" cried Jo, cuvering her eers. "'Proons and prizms' ar mi doom, and I mae as wel maek up mi miend to it. I caem heer to moraliez, not to heer about things that maek me skip to think of."

"Hold your tongue!" cried Jo, covering her ears

"I noe Meg wuud wet-blanket such a propoezal, but I thaut U had mor spirit," began Laurie insinuatingly.

"Bad boy, be qieet! Sit doun and think of yuur oen sins, don't go maeking me ad to mien. If I get yuur grandpa to apolojiez for th shaeking, wil U giv up runing away?" askt Jo seeriusly.

"Yes, but U wun't do it," anserd Laurie, hoo wisht "to maek up," but felt that his outraged dignity must be appeased furst.

"If I can manej th yung wun I can th oeld wun," muterd Jo, as she waukt away, leeving Laurie bent oever a raelroed map, with his hed propped up on boeth hands.

"Cum in!" and Mr. Laurence's gruf vois sounded gruffer than ever, as Jo tapt at his dor.

"It's oenly me, sur, cum to return a book," she sed blandly, as she entered.

"Wont any mor?" askt th oeld jentlman, luuking grim and vext, but trieing not to sho it.

"Yes, pleez. I liek oeld Sam so wel, I think I'll tri th second voluem," returnd Jo, hoeping to propitiate him by accepting a second doess of Boswell's "Johnson," as he had recomended that lievly wurk.

Th shagy iebrows unbent a litl, as he roeld th steps tord th shelf whaer th Johnsonian literachuur wuz plaest. Jo skipt up, and, sitting on th top step, affected to be surching for her book, but wuz reealy wundering how best to introduess th daenjerus objekt of her vizit. Mr. Laurence seemd to suspekt that sumthing wuz brewing in her miend; for, after taeking several brisk turns about th room, he faest round on her, speeking so abruptly that "Rasselas" tumbld faess dounward on th flor.

"Whut has that boy been about? Don't tri to sheeld him. I noe he has been in mischif by th wae he akted when he caem hoem. I can't get a wurd from him; and when I thretend to shaek th trooth out of him he bolted upstaers, and locked himself into his room."

265 "He did do rong, but we forgaev him, and all promist not to sae a wurd to any wun," began Jo reluktantly.

"That wun't do; he shal not shelter himself behind a promis from U soft-hearted gurls. If he's dun anything amis, he shal confes, beg pardon, and be punisht. Out with it, Jo, I wun't be kept in th dark."

Mr. Laurence luukt so alarming and spoek so sharply that Jo wuud hav gladly run away, if she cuud, but she wuz purcht aloft 266 on th steps, and he stuud at th fuut, a lieon in th path, so she had to stae and braev it out.

He stood at the foot, like a lion in the path

"Indeed, sur, I cannot tel; muther forbaed it. Laurie has confest, askt pardon, and been punisht qiet enough. We don't keep silence to sheeld him, but sum wun else, and it wil maek mor trubl if U interfeer. Pleez don't; it wuz partly mi fault, but it's all riet now; so let's forget it, and tauk about th 'Rambler,' or sumthing plezant."

"Hang th 'Rambler!' cum doun and giv me yuur wurd that this harum-scarum boy of mien hasn't dun anything ungraetful or impurtinent. If he has, after all yuur kiendnes to him, I'll thrash him with mi oen hands."

Th thret sounded auful, but did not alarm Jo, for she knew th irasibl oeld jentlman wuud never lift a fingger against his grandson, whotever he miet sae to th contraery. She oebeedi’ently desended, and maed as liet of th prank as she cuud without betraeing Meg or forgeting th trooth.

"Hum—haa—wel, if th boy held his tung because he promist, and not from obstinasy, I'll forgiv him. He's a stuborn felo, and hard to manej," sed Mr. Laurence, rubing up his haer till it luukt as if he had been out in a gael, and smoothing th froun from his brow with an aer of releef.

"So am I; but a kiend wurd wil guvern me when all th king's horses and all th king's men couldn't," sed Jo, trieing to sae a kiend wurd for her frend, hoo seemd to get out of wun scraep oenly to faul into anuther.

"U think I'm not kiend to him, hae?" wuz th sharp anser.

"O, deer, no, sur; U ar rather too kiend sumtiems, and then just a trifle hasty when he tries yuur paeshenss. Don't U think U ar?"

Jo wuz deturmind to hav it out now, and tried to luuk qiet plasid, tho she qaekt a litl after her boeld speech. To her graet releef and serpriez, th oeld jentlman oenly throo his spektakls on to th taebl with a ratl, and exclaemd frankly,—

"U're riet, gurl, I am! I luv th boy, but he tries mi paeshenss past bearing, and I don't noe how it wil end, if we go on so."

"I'll tel U, he'll run away." Jo wuz sorry for that speech th 267 mienuet it wuz maed; she ment to worn him that Laurie wuud not baer much restraent, and hoept he wuud be mor forbearing with th lad.

Mr. Laurence's rudy faess chaenjd sudenly, and he sat doun, with a trubld glanss at th pikcher of a handsum man, which hung oever his taebl. It wuz Laurie's faather, hoo had run away in his yooth, and marryd against th impeerius oeld man's wil. Jo fansyd he rememberd and regreted th past, and she wisht she had held her tung.

"He wun't do it unles he is verry much wuryd, and oenly thretens it sumtiems, when he gets tierd of studying. I ofen think I should liek to, especially sinss mi haer wuz cut; so, if U ever mis us, U mae advertise for too boys, and luuk amung th ships bound for India."

She laft as she spoek, and Mr. Laurence luukt releevd, evidently taeking th hoel as a joek.

"U husy, how daer U tauk in that wae? Whaer's yuur respekt for me, and yuur proper bringing up? Bles th boys and gurls! Whut torments thae ar; yet we can't do without them," he sed, pinching her cheeks guud-huemordly. "Go and bring that boy doun to his diner, tel him it's all riet, and advise him not to put on trajedy aers with his grandfaather. I wun't baer it."

"He wun't cum, sur; he feels badly because U didn't beleev him when he sed he couldn't tel. I think th shaeking hurt his feelings verry much."

Jo tried to luuk pathetik, but must hav faeld, for Mr. Laurence began to laf, and she knew th dae wuz wun.

"I'm sorry for that, and aut to thank him for not shaeking me, I supoez. Whut th dickens duz th felo expect?" and th oeld jentlman luukt a trifle ashamed of his oen testiness.

"If I wer U, I'd riet him an apolojy, sur. He sez he wun't cum doun till he has wun, and tauks about Washington, and goes on in an absurd wae. A formal apolojy wil maek him see how foolish he is, and bring him doun qiet aemiabl. Tri it; he lieks fun, and this wae is beter than tauking. I'll carry it up, and teech him his duty."

Mr. Laurence gaev her a sharp luuk, and put on his spektakls, saeing 268 sloely, "U're a sli puss, but I don't miend being manejd by U and Beth. Heer, giv me a bit of paeper, and let us hav dun with this nonsenss."

Th noet wuz riten in th turms which wun jentlman wuud uez to anuther after ofering sum deep insult. Jo dropt a kis on th top of Mr. Laurence's bauld hed, and ran up to slip th apolojy under Laurie's dor, advising him, thru th kee-hoel, to be submissive, decorus, and a fue uther agreeabl imposibilitys. Fiending th dor locked again, she left th noet to do its wurk, and wuz going qieetly away, when th yung jentlman slid doun th banisters, and waeted for her at th bottom, saeing, with his moest vurchu’us expreshon of countenanss, "Whut a guud felo U ar, Jo! Did U get bloen up?" he aded, lafing.

"No; he wuz prity mield, on th hoel."

"Ah! I got it all round; eeven U cast me off oever thaer, and I felt just redy to go to th deuce," he began apolojetikaly.

"Don't tauk in that wae; turn oever a nue leef and begin again, Teddy, mi sun."

"I keep turning oever nue leevs, and spoiling them, as I uezd to spoil mi copy-books; and I maek so meny beginings thaer never wil be an end," he sed doelfuly.

"Go and eat yuur diner; U'll feel beter after it. Men aulwaes croek when thae ar hunggry," and Jo whiskt out at th frunt dor after that.

"That's a 'laebel' on mi 'sekt,'" anserd Laurie, qoeting Amy, as he went to partaek of humbl-pie dutifully with his grandfaather, hoo wuz qiet saently in temper and overwhelmingly respektful in maner all th rest of th dae.

Every wun thaut th mater ended and th litl cloud bloen oever; but th mischif wuz dun, for, tho others forgot it, Meg rememberd. She never alooded to a surten purson, but she thaut of him a guud deel, dreemd dreems mor than ever; and wunss Jo, rumejing her sister's desk for stamps, found a bit of paeper scribld oever with th wurds, "Mrs. John Brooke;" whaerat she groend trajikaly, and cast it into th fier, feeling that Laurie's prank had haesnd th eevil dae for her.


XXII. Plezant Medoes.

269

Beth was soon able to lie on the study sofa all day

XXII.

Plezant Medoes.

Liek sunshine after storm wer th peaceful weeks which foloed. Th invalids improovd rapidly, and Mr. March began to tauk of returning eerly in th nue yeer. Beth wuz soon aebl to lie on th study soefa all dae, amuezing herself with th wel-beluved cats, at furst, and, in tiem, with dol's soeing, which had faulen sadly behindhand. Her wunss aktiv lims wer so stif and feebl that Jo tuuk her a daily aering about th hous in her strong arms. Meg cheerfuly blakend and burnt her whiet hands cuuking delicat meses for "th deer;" whiel Amy, a loyal slaev of th ring, selebraeted her return by giving away as meny of her treasures as she cuud prevael on her sisters to accept.

As Christmas approached, th uezhual misterys began to haunt th hous, and Jo freeqently convulst th family by propoezing utterly imposibl or magnifisently absurd serremoenys, in onor of this unuezhualy merry Christmas. Laurie wuz equally impraktikabl, and 270 wuud hav had bonfiers, ski-rokets, and trieumfal arches, if he had had his oen wae. After meny skirmishes and snubbings, th ambishus paer wer considerd effectually qencht, and went about with forlorn faeses, which wer rather belied by exploezhons of lafter when th too got together.

Several daes of unuezhualy mield wether fitly usherd in a splendid Christmas Dae. Hannah "felt in her bones" that it wuz going to be an unuezhualy fien dae, and she proovd herself a troo prophetess, for everybody and everything seemd bound to produce a grand success. To begin with, Mr. March roet that he should soon be with them; then Beth felt uncomonly wel that morning, and, being drest in her muther's gift,—a soft crimson merino raper,—wuz borne in trieumf to th windo to behoeld th ofering of Jo and Laurie. Th Unquenchables had dun thaer best to be wurthy of th naem, for, liek elvs, thae had wurkt by niet, and conjerd up a comikal serpriez. Out in th garden stuud a stately sno-maeden, cround with holy, bearing a basket of froot and flowers in wun hand, a graet roel of nue muezik in th uther, a perfect raenbo of an Afghan round her chily shoulders, and a Christmas carol ishooing from her lips, on a pink paeper streemer:—

The Jungfrau

"Th JUNGFRAU TO BETH.

"God bles U, deer Qeen Bess!

Mae nuthing U dismae,

But helth and peess and hapynes

Be yuurs, this Christmas Dae.


"Heer's froot to feed our busy bee,

And flowers for her noez;

Heer's muezik for her pianee,

An Afghan for her toes.


"A portrait of Joanna, see,

By Raphael No. 2,

Hoo laebord with graet industry

To maek it faer and troo.


271 "Accept a ribon red, I beg,

For Madam Purrer's tael;

And iess-creem maed by luvly Peg,—

A Mont Blanc in a pael.


"Thaer deerest luv mi maekers laed

Within mi breast of sno:

Accept it, and th Alpine maed,

From Laurie and from Jo."

How Beth laft when she saw it, how Laurie ran up and doun to bring in th gifts, and whut ridicuelus speeches Jo maed as she prezented them!

"I'm so fuul of hapynes, that, if faather wuz oenly heer, I couldn't hoeld wun drop mor," sed Beth, qiet sieing with contentment as Jo carried her off to th study to rest after th exsietment, and to refreshes herself with sum of th delicious graeps th "Jungfrau" had sent her.

272 "So am I," aded Jo, slaping th poket whaerin repoezd th long-dezierd Undine and Sintram.

"I'm shuur I am," ecoed Amy, poring oever th engraevd copy of th Madonna and Chield, which her muther had given her, in a prity fraem.

"Of corss I am!" cried Meg, smoothing th silvery foelds of her furst silk dres; for Mr. Laurence had insisted on giving it.

"How can I be utherwiez?" sed Mrs. March graetfuly, as her ies went from her huzband's leter to Beth's smieling faess, and her hand caressed th brooch maed of grae and goelden, chestnut and dark broun haer, which th gurls had just fasend on her breast.

Now and then, in this wurk-a-dae wurld, things do hapen in th delietful story-book fashon, and whut a cumfort that is. Haf an our after every wun had sed thae wer so hapy thae cuud oenly hoeld wun drop mor, th drop caem. Laurie oepend th parlor dor, and popt his hed in verry qieetly. He miet just as wel hav turnd a sumersault and uterd an Indian wor-whoop; for his faess wuz so fuul of suprest exsietment and his vois so treacherously joyful, that every wun jumpt up, tho he oenly sed, in a qeer, breathless vois, "Heer's anuther Christmas prezent for th March family."

Befor th wurds wer wel out of his mouth, he wuz whiskt away sumhow, and in his plaess apeerd a taul man, mufld up to th ies, leening on th arm of anuther taul man, hoo tried to sae sumthing and couldn't. Of corss thaer wuz a jeneral stampeed; and for several minits everybody seemd to looz thaer wits, for th straenjest things wer dun, and no wun sed a wurd. Mr. March becaem invizibl in th embrace of foer paers of luving arms; Jo disgraest herself by neerly faenting away, and had to be doktord by Laurie in th china-clozet; Mr. Brooke kist Meg entierly by mistaek, as he sumwhot incoeheerently explaend; and Amy, th dignified, tumbld oever a stool, and, never stoping to get up, hugd and cried oever her faather's boots in th moest tuching maner. Mrs. March wuz th furst to recuver herself, and held up her hand with a worning, "Hush! remember Beth!"

But it wuz too laet; th study dor floo oepen, th litl red raper 273 apeerd on th threshhoeld,—joy put strength into th feebl lims,—and Beth ran straet into her faather's arms. Never miend whut happened just after that; for th fuul harts oeverfloed, woshing away th bitterness of th past, and leeving oenly th sweetness of th prezent.

It wuz not at all roemantik, but a harty laf set everybody straet again, for Hannah wuz discuverd behind th dor, sobing oever th fat turkey, which she had forgoten to put doun when she rusht up from th kichen. As th laf subsided, Mrs. March began to thank Mr. Brooke for his faethful caer of her huzband, at which Mr. Brooke sudenly rememberd that Mr. March needed rest, and, seezing Laurie, he precipitately retierd. Then th too invalids wer orderd to repoez, which thae did, by boeth sitting in wun big chaer, and tauking hard.

Mr. March toeld how he had longed to serpriez them, and how, when th fien wether caem, he had been alowd by his doktor to taek advantej of it; how devoeted Brooke had been, and how he wuz aultogether a moest estimable and upriets yung man. Whi Mr. March paused a mienuet just thaer, and, after a glanss at Meg, hoo wuz vieolently poeking th fier, luukt at his wief with an inqiering lift of th iebrows, I leev U to imajin; aulso whi Mrs. March jently noded her hed, and askt, rather abruptly, if he wouldn't hav sumthing to eat. Jo saw and understuud th luuk; and she staukt grimly away to get wien and beef-tee, mutering to herself, as she slamd th dor, "I haet estimable yung men with broun ies!"

Thaer never wuz such a Christmas diner as thae had that dae. Th fat turkey wuz a siet to behoeld, when Hannah sent him up, stuft, bround, and decoraeted; so wuz th plum-puuding, which qiet melted in wun's mouth; liekwiez th jelys, in which Amy reveld liek a fli in a huny-pot. Everything turnd out wel, which wuz a mursy, Hannah sed, "For mi miend wuz that flusterd, mum, that it's a merrycle I didn't roest th puuding, and stuf th turkey with raezins, let aloen bilin' of it in a cloth."

Mr. Laurence and his grandson diend with them, aulso Mr. Brooke,—at hoom Jo glowerd darkly, to Laurie's infinit amuezment. Too eezy-chaers stuud sied by sied at th hed of th taebl, 274 in which sat Beth and her faather, feesting modestly on chiken and a litl froot. Thae drank healths, toeld storys, sung songs, "reminist," as th oeld foeks sae, and had a thuroely guud tiem. A slae-ried had been pland, but th gurls wuud not leev thaer faather; so th guests departed eerly, and, as twilight gatherd, th hapy family sat together round th fier.

"Just a yeer ago we wer groening oever th dizmal Christmas we expected to hav. Do U remember?" askt Jo, braeking a short pause which had foloed a long conversation about meny things.

"Rather a plezant yeer on th hoel!" sed Meg, smieling at th fier, and congrachulaeting herself on having treated Mr. Brooke with dignity.

"I think it's been a prity hard wun," obzurvd Amy, woching th liet shien on her ring, with thautful ies.

"I'm glad it's oever, because we've got U bak," whisperd Beth, hoo sat on her faather's nee.

"Rather a ruf roed for U to travel, mi litl pilgrims, especially th later part of it. But U hav got on bravely; and I think th burdens ar in a faer wae to tumbl off verry soon," sed Mr. March, luuking with faatherly satisfakshon at th foer yung faeses gatherd round him.

"How do U noe? Did muther tel U?" askt Jo.

"Not much; straws sho which wae th wiend bloes, and I've maed several discuverys to-dae."

"O, tel us whut thae ar!" cried Meg, hoo sat besied him.

"Heer is wun;" and taeking up th hand which lae on th arm of his chaer, he pointed to th rufend forfingger, a burn on th bak, and too or three litl hard spots on th paam. "I remember a tiem when this hand wuz whiet and smooth, and yuur furst caer wuz to keep it so. It wuz verry prity then, but to me it is much prityer now,—for in thees seeming blemishes I red a litl history. A burnt-ofering has been maed of vanity; this hardend paam has urnd sumthing beter than blisters; and I'm shuur th soeing dun by thees prikt finggers wil last a long tiem, so much guud-wil went into th stitches. Meg, mi deer, I value th wuumanly skil which keeps hoem hapy mor than whiet hands or fashonabl accomplishments. 275 I'm proud to shaek this guud, industrius litl hand, and hoep I shal not soon be askt to giv it away."

If Meg had wontedw a reword for ours of paeshent laebor, she reseevd it in th harty presher of her faather's hand and th aprooving smiel he gaev her.

"Whut about Jo? Pleez sae sumthing niess; for she has tried so hard, and been so verry, verry guud to me," sed Beth, in her faather's eer.

He laft, and luukt acros at th taul gurl hoo sat opozit, with an unuezhualy mield expreshon in her broun faess.

"In spiet of th curly crop, I don't see th 'sun Jo' hoom I left a yeer ago," sed Mr. March. "I see a yung laedy hoo pins her collar straet, laeses her boots neetly, and neether whisls, tauks slang, nor lies on th rug as she uezd to do. Her faess is rather thin and pale, just now, with woching and anxiety; but I liek to luuk at it, for it has groen jentler, and her vois is loeer; she doesn't bounss, but moovs qieetly, and taeks caer of a surten litl purson in a mutherly wae which deliets me. I rather mis mi wield gurl; but if I get a strong, helpful, tender-hearted wuuman in her plaess, I shal feel qiet satisfied. I don't noe whether th sheering soeberd our blak sheep, but I do noe that in all Washington I couldn't fiend anything buetiful enough to be bought with th fiev-and-twenty dolars which mi guud gurl sent me."

Jo's keen ies wer rather dim for a mienuet, and her thin faess groo roezy in th fierliet, as she reseevd her faather's praez, feeling that she did dezurv a porshon of it.

"Now Beth," sed Amy, longing for her turn, but redy to waet.

"Thaer's so litl of her, I'm afraed to sae much, for feer she wil slip away aultogether, tho she is not so shi as she uezd to be," began thaer faather cheerfuly; but recolekting how neerly he had lost her, he held her cloez, saeing tenderly, with her cheek against his oen, "I've got U saef, mi Beth, and I'll keep U so, pleez God."

After a mienuet's silence, he luukt doun at Amy, hoo sat on th criket at his feet, and sed, with a caress of th shiening haer,—

"I obzurvd that Amy tuuk drumstiks at diner, ran errands for her muther all th afternoon, gaev Meg her plaess to-niet, and has 276 waeted on every wun with paeshenss and guud-huemor. I aulso obzurv that she duz not fret much nor luuk in th glas, and has not eeven menshond a verry prity ring which she waers; so I conclood that she has lurnd to think of uther peepl mor and of herself les, and has desieded to tri and mould her carrakter as carefully as she moulds her litl clay figuers. I am glad of this; for tho I should be verry proud of a graesful stachoo maed by her, I shal be infinitly prouder of a luvabl dauter, with a talent for maeking lief buetiful to herself and others."

"Whut ar U thinking of, Beth?" askt Jo, when Amy had thankt her faather and toeld about her ring.

"I red in 'Pilgrim's Progres' to-dae, how, after meny trubls, Christian and Hoepful caem to a plezant green medo, whaer lilys bloomd all th yeer round, and thaer thae rested hapily, as we do now, befor thae went on to thaer jurny's end," anserd Beth; ading, as she slipt out of her faather's arms, and went sloely to th instrument, "It's singing tiem now, and I wont to be in mi oeld plaess. I'll tri to sing th song of th sheperd-boy which th Pilgrims hurd. I maed th muezik for faather, because he lieks th vurses."

So, sitting at th deer litl piano, Beth softly tucht th kees, and, in th sweet vois thae had never thaut to heer again, sung to her oen accompaniment th qaent him, which wuz a singularly fitting song for her:—

"He that is doun need feer no faul,

He that is loe no pride;

He that is humbl ever shal

Hav God to be his gied.


"I am content with whut I hav,

Litl be it or much;

And, Lord! contentment still I craev,

Because Thow savest such.


"Fulness to them a burden is,

That go on pilgrimage;

Heer litl, and heerafter bliss,

Is best from aej to aej!"


He sat in the big chair
"He sat in th big chaer by Beth's soefa with th uther three cloez by."—Paej 277.

XXIII. Ant March setls th Qeschon.

277

XXIII.

Ant MARCH Setls Th Qeschon.

Popping in her head now and then

Liek bees swarming after thaer qeen, muther and dauters huverd about Mr. March th next dae, neglekting everything to luuk at, waet upon, and lisen to th nue invalid, hoo wuz in a faer wae to be kild by kiendnes. As he sat propped up in a big chaer by Beth's soefa, with th uther three cloez by, and Hannah poping in her hed now and then, "to peek at th deer man," nuthing seemd needed to complete thaer hapynes. But sumthing wuz needed, and th elder wuns felt it, tho nun confest th fakt. Mr. and Mrs. March luukt at wun anuther with an anxious expreshon, as thaer ies foloed Meg. Jo had suden fits of sobrieety, and wuz seen to shaek her fist at Mr. Brooke's umbrela, which had been left in th haul; Meg wuz absent-miended, shi, and silent, started when th bel rang, and culord when John's naem wuz menshond; Amy sed "Every wun seemd waeting for sumthing, and couldn't setl doun, which wuz qeer, sinss faather wuz saef at hoem," and Beth inosently wunderd whi thaer naebors didn't run oever as uezhual.

278 Laurie went by in th afternoon, and, seeing Meg at th windo, seemd sudenly possessed with a melodramatik fit, for he fel doun upon wun nee in th sno, beet his breast, tore his haer, and clasped his hands imploringly, as if beging sum boon; and when Meg toeld him to behaev himself and go away, he wrung imajinarry teers out of his hankerchif, and stagerd round th corner as if in uter despaer.

"Whut duz th gooss meen?" sed Meg, lafing, and trieing to luuk unconshus.

"He's shoeing U how yuur John wil go on by and by. Tuching, isn't it?" anserd Jo scornfuly.

"Don't sae mi John, it isn't proper or troo;" but Meg's vois linggerd oever th wurds as if thae sounded plezant to her. "Pleez don't plaeg me, Jo; I've toeld U I don't caer much about him, and thaer isn't to be anything sed, but we ar all to be frendly, and go on as befor."

"We can't, for sumthing has been sed, and Laurie's mischif has spoilt U for me. I see it, and so duz muther; U ar not liek yuur oeld self a bit, and seem ever so far away from me. I don't meen to plaeg U, and wil baer it liek a man, but I do wish it wuz all setld. I haet to waet; so if U meen ever to do it, maek haest and hav it oever qikly," sed Jo pettishly.

"I can't sae or do anything till he speeks, and he wun't, because faather sed I wuz too yung," began Meg, bending oever her wurk, with a qeer litl smiel, which sugjested that she did not qiet agree with her faather on that pointer.

"If he did speek, U wouldn't noe whut to sae, but wuud cri or blush, or let him hav his oen wae, insted of giving a guud, desieded, No."

"I'm not so sily and week as U think. I noe just whut I should sae, for I've pland it all, so I needn't be taeken unawaers; thaer's no noeing whut mae hapen, and I wisht to be prepaerd."

Jo couldn't help smieling at th important aer which Meg had unconshusly asuemd, and which wuz as becuming as th prity culor vaerying in her cheeks.

"Wuud U miend teling me whut U'd sae?" askt Jo mor respektfuly.

279 "Not at all; U ar sixteen now, qiet oeld enough to be mi confidant, and mi expeeri’enss wil be uesful to U by and by, perhaps, in yuur oen affairs of this sort."

"Don't meen to hav any; it's fun to woch uther peepl philander, but I should feel liek a fool dooing it mieself," sed Jo, luuking alarmd at th thaut.

"I think not, if U liked any wun verry much, and he liked U." Meg spoek as if to herself, and glanst out at th laen, whaer she had ofen seen luvers wauking together in th sumer twilight.

"I thaut U wer going to tel yuur speech to that man," sed Jo, roodly shortening her sister's litl reverie.

"O, I should meerly sae, qiet calmly and decidedly, 'Thank U, Mr. Brooke, U ar verry kiend, but I agree with faather that I am too yung to enter into any engaejment at prezent; so pleez sae no mor, but let us be frends as we wer.'"

"Hum! that's stif and cool enough. I don't beleev U'll ever sae it, and I noe he wun't be satisfied if U do. If he goes on liek th rejekted luvers in books, U'll giv in, rather than hurt his feelings."

"No, I wun't! I shal tel him I've maed up mi miend, and shal wauk out of th room with dignity."

Meg roez as she spoek, and wuz just going to rehurss th dignified exit, when a step in th haul maed her fli into her seet, and begin to soe as if her lief depended on finishing that particular seem in a given tiem. Jo smutherd a laf at th suden chaenj, and, when sum wun gaev a modest tap, oepend th dor with a grim aspekt, which wuz anything but hospitabl.

"Guud afternoon. I caem to get mi umbrela,—that is, to see how yuur faather fiends himself to-dae," sed Mr. Brooke, geting a trifle confuezd as his ie went from wun tel-tael faess to th uther.

"It's verry wel, he's in th rak, I'll get him, and tel it U ar heer," and having jumbld her faather and th umbrela wel together in her replie, Jo slipt out of th room to giv Meg a chanss to maek her speech and aer her dignity. But th instant she vanisht, Meg began to sidle tords' th dor, murmering,—

"Muther wil liek to see U. Prae sit doun, I'll call her."

280 "Don't go; ar U afraed of me, Margaret?" and Mr. Brooke luukt so hurt that Meg thaut she must hav dun sumthing verry rood. She blushed up to th litl curls on her forhed, for he had never called her Margaret befor, and she wuz serpriezd to fiend how nacheral and sweet it seemd to heer him sae it. Anxious to apeer frendly and at her eez, she put out her hand with a confieding jescher, and sed graetfuly,—

"How can I be afraed when U hav been so kiend to faather? I oenly wish I cuud thank U for it."

Shall I tell you how?

"Shal I tel U how?" askt Mr. Brooke, hoelding th small hand fast in boeth his oen, and luuking doun at Meg with so much luv in 281 th broun ies, that her hart began to flutter, and she boeth longed to run away and to stop and lisen.

"O no, pleez don't—I'd rather not," she sed, trieing to withdraw her hand, and luuking frietend in spiet of her denieal.

"I wun't trubl U, I oenly wont to noe if U caer for me a litl, Meg. I luv U so much, deer," aded Mr. Brooke tenderly.

This wuz th moement for th calm, proper speech, but Meg didn't maek it; she forgot every wurd of it, hung her hed, and anserd, "I don't noe," so softly, that John had to stoop doun to cach th foolish litl replie.

He seemd to think it wuz wurth th trubl, for he smield to himself as if qiet satisfied, prest th plump hand graetfuly, and sed, in his moest persuasive toen, "Wil U tri and fiend out? I wont to noe so much; for I can't go to wurk with any hart until I lurn whether I am to hav mi reword in th end or not."

"I'm too yung," faulterd Meg, wundering whi she wuz so fluttered, yet rather enjoying it.

"I'll waet; and in th meentiem, U cuud be lurning to liek me. Wuud it be a verry hard leson, deer?"

"Not if I choez to lurn it, but—"

"Pleez chooz to lurn, Meg. I luv to teech, and this is eezyer than German," broek in John, geting possession of th uther hand, so that she had no wae of hieding her faess, as he bent to luuk into it.

His toen wuz properly beseeching; but, stealing a shi luuk at him, Meg saw that his ies wer merry as wel as tender, and that he wor th satisfied smiel of wun hoo had no dout of his success. This netld her; Annie Moffat's foolish lesons in coeketry caem into her miend, and th luv of power, which sleeps in th bosoms of th best of litl wimen, woek up all of a suden and tuuk possession of her. She felt exsieted and straenj, and, not noeing whut else to do, foloed a capricious impulss, and, withdrawing her hands, sed petulantly, "I don't chooz. Pleez go away and let me be!"

Puur Mr. Brooke luukt as if his luvly casl in th aer wuz tumbling about his eers, for he had never seen Meg in such a mood befor, and it rather bewildered him.

"Do U reealy meen that?" he askt anxiously, foloeing her as she waukt away.

282 "Yes, I do; I don't wont to be wuryd about such things. Faather sez I needn't; it's too soon and I'd rather not."

"Mayn't I hoep U'll chaenj yuur miend by and by? I'll waet, and sae nuthing till U hav had mor tiem. Don't plae with me, Meg. I didn't think that of U."

"Don't think of me at all. I'd rather U wouldn't," sed Meg, taeking a nauty satisfakshon in trieing her luver's paeshenss and her oen power.

He wuz graev and pale now, and luukt decidedly mor liek th novel heroes hoom she admierd; but he neether slapt his forhed nor trampt about th room, as thae did; he just stuud luuking at her so wistfuly, so tenderly, that she found her hart relenting in spiet of her. Whut wuud hav happened next I cannot sae, if Ant March had not cum hobbling in at this interesting mienuet.

Th oeld laedy couldn't rezist her longing to see her nefue; for she had met Laurie as she tuuk her aering, and, heering of Mr. March's arrival, droev straet out to see him. Th family wer all busy in th bak part of th hous, and she had maed her wae qieetly in, hoeping to serpriez them. She did serpriez too of them so much that Meg started as if she had seen a goest, and Mr. Brooke vanisht into th study.

283

Bless me, what's all this?

"Bles me, whut's all this?" cried th oeld laedy, with a rap of her caen, as she glanst from th pale yung jentlman to th scarlet yung laedy.

"It's faather's frend. I'm so serpriezd to see U!" stamerd Meg, feeling that she wuz in for a lecture now.

"That's evident," returnd Ant March, sitting doun. "But whut is faather's frend saeing to maek U luuk liek a peony? Thaer's mischif going on, and I insist upon noeing whut it is," with anuther rap.

"We wer meerly tauking. Mr. Brooke caem for his umbrela," began Meg, wishing that Mr. Brooke and th umbrela wer saefly out of th hous.

"Brooke? That boy's tuetor? Ah! I understand now. I noe all about it. Jo blunderd into a rong mesej in wun of yuur faather's leters, and I maed her tel me. U haeven't gon and accepted him, chield?" cried Ant March, luuking scandalized.

"Hush! he'll heer. Sha'n't I call muther?" sed Meg, much trubld.

"Not yet. I've sumthing to sae to U, and I must free mi miend at wunss. Tel me, do U meen to marry this Cuuk? If U do, not wun peny of mi muny ever goes to U. Remember that, and be a sensibl gurl," sed th oeld laedy impresivly.

Now Ant March possessed in perfection th art of rouzing th spirit of opozishon in th jentlest peepl, and enjoyd dooing it. Th best of us hav a spiess of pervursity in us, especially when we ar yung and in luv. If Ant March had begd Meg to accept John Brooke, she wuud probably hav declaerd she couldn't think of it; but as she wuz peremptorily orderd not to liek him, she imeediatly maed up her miend that she wuud. Inclinaeshon as wel as pervursity maed th desizhon eezy, and, being aulredy much exsieted, Meg opoezd th oeld laedy with uenuezhual spirit.

"I shal marry hoom I pleez, Ant March, and U can leev yuur muny to any wun U liek," she sed, noding her hed with a rezoloot aer.

"Highty tighty! Is that th wae U taek mi advice, mis? U'll be sorry for it, by and by, when U've tried luv in a cotej, and found it a faeluer."

284 "It can't be a wurss wun than sum peepl fiend in big houses," retorted Meg.

Ant March put on her glases and tuuk a luuk at th gurl, for she did not noe her in this nue mood. Meg hardly knew herself, she felt so braev and independent,—so glad to defend John, and assert her riet to luv him, if she liked. Ant March saw that she had begun rong, and, after a litl pause, maed a fresh start, saeing, as mieldly as she cuud, "Now, Meg, mi deer, be reezonabl, and taek mi advice. I meen it kiendly, and don't wont U to spoil yuur hoel lief by maeking a mistaek at th begining. U aut to marry wel, and help yuur family; it's yuur duty to maek a rich mach, and it aut to be imprest upon U."

"Faather and muther don't think so; thae liek John, tho he is puur."

"Yuur paerents, mi deer, hav no mor wurldly wizdom than too baebys."

"I'm glad of it," cried Meg stoutly.

Ant March tuuk no noetis, but went on with her lecture. "This Ruuk is puur, and hasn't got any rich relaeshons, has he?"

"No; but he has meny worm frends."

"U can't liv on frends; tri it, and see how cool thae'll gro. He hasn't any business, has he?"

"Not yet; Mr. Laurence is going to help him."

"That wun't last long. James Laurence is a crochety oeld felo, and not to be depended on. So U intend to marry a man without muny, pozishon, or business, and go on wurking harder than U do now, when U miet be comfortable all yuur daes by miending me and dooing beter? I thaut U had mor senss, Meg."

"I couldn't do beter if I waeted haf mi lief! John is guud and wiez; he's got heeps of talent; he's wiling to wurk, and shuur to get on, he's so enerjetik and braev. Every wun lieks and respekts him, and I'm proud to think he caers for me, tho I'm so puur and yung and sily," sed Meg, luuking prityer than ever in her urnestly.

"He noes U hav got rich relaeshons, chield; that's th seecret of his lieking, I suspekt."

285 "Ant March, how daer U sae such a thing? John is abuv such meennes, and I wun't lisen to U a mienuet if U tauk so," cried Meg indignantly, forgeting everything but th injustis of th oeld laedy's suspishons. "Mi John wouldn't marry for muny, anymore than I wuud. We ar wiling to wurk, and we meen to waet. I'm not afraed of being puur, for I've been hapy so far, and I noe I shal be with him, because he luvs me, and I—"

Meg stopt thaer, remembering all of a suden that she hadn't maed up her miend; that she had toeld "her John" to go away, and that he miet be oeverheering her inconsistent remarks.

Ant March wuz verry anggry, for she had set her hart on having her prity neess maek a fien mach, and sumthing in th gurl's hapy yung faess maed th loenly oeld wuuman feel boeth sad and sour.

"Wel, I wosh mi hands of th hoel affair! U ar a wilful chield, and U've lost mor than U noe by this peess of foly. No, I wun't stop; I'm disapointed in U, and haeven't spirits to see yuur faather now. Don't expect anything from me when U ar marryd; yuur Mr. Book's frends must taek caer of U. I'm dun with U forever."

And, slaming th dor in Meg's faess, Ant March droev off in hie dujon. She seemd to taek all th gurl's curej with her; for, when left aloen, Meg stuud a moement, undecided whether to laf or cri. Befor she cuud maek up her miend, she wuz taeken possession of by Mr. Brooke, hoo sed, all in wun breth, "I couldn't help heering, Meg. Thank U for defending me, and Ant March for prooving that U do caer for me a litl bit."

"I didn't noe how much, till she abuezd U," began Meg.

"And I needn't go away, but mae stae and be hapy, mae I, deer?"

Heer wuz anuther fien chanss to maek th crushing speech and th stately exit, but Meg never thaut of dooing eether, and disgraest herself forever in Jo's ies by meekly whispering, "Yes, John," and hieding her faess on Mr. Brooke's waestcoet.

Fifteen minits after Ant March's deparcher, Jo caem softly doun staers, paused an instant at th parlor dor, and, heering no sound within, noded and smield, with a satisfied expreshon, saeing to herself, 286 "She has sent him away as we pland, and that affair is setld. I'll go and heer th fun, and hav a guud laf oever it."

But puur Jo never got her laf, for she wuz transfixed upon th threshhoeld by a spektakl which held her thaer, staering with her mouth neerly as wied oepen as her ies. Going in to exult oever a faulen enemy, and to praez a strong-miended sister for th banishment of an objekshonabl luver, it surtenly wuz a shok to behoeld th aforesaid enemy sereenly sitting on th soefa, with th strong-miended sister enthroned upon his nee, and waering an expreshon of th moest abjekt submission. Jo gaev a sort of gasp, as if a coeld shower-bath had sudenly faulen upon her,—for such an unexpekted turning of th taebls akchualy tuuk her breth away. At th od sound, th luvers turnd and saw her. Meg jumpt up, luuking boeth proud and shi; but "that man," as Jo called him, akchualy laft, and sed coolly, as he kist th astonisht nue-comer, "Sister Jo, congrachulaet us!"

That wuz ading insult to injery,—it wuz aultogether too much,—and, maeking sum wield demonstraeshon with her hands, Jo vanisht without a wurd. Rushing upstaers, she startld th invalids by exclaeming trajikaly, as she burst into th room, "O, do sumbody go doun qik; John Brooke is akting dredfuly, and Meg lieks it!"

Mr. and Mrs. March left th room with speed; and, casting herself upon th bed, Jo cried and scoelded tempestuously as she toeld th auful nues to Beth and Amy. Th litl gurls, however, considerd it a moest agreeabl and interesting event, and Jo got litl cumfort from them; so she went up to her refuej in th garret, and confieded her trubls to th rats.

Noebody ever knew whut went on in th parlor that afternoon; but a graet deel of tauking wuz dun, and qieet Mr. Brooke astonisht his frends by th eloquence and spirit with which he pleeded his suit, toeld his plans, and persuaded them to araenj everything just as he wontedw it.

Th tee-bel rang befor he had finisht descriebing th paradise which he ment to urn for Meg, and he proudly tuuk her in to super, boeth luuking so hapy that Jo hadn't th hart to be jelus or dizmal. Amy wuz verry much imprest by John's devoeshon and Meg's dignity. Beth beemd at them from a distanss, whiel Mr. and Mrs. March survaed 287 th yung cupl with such tender satisfakshon that it wuz perfectly evident Ant March wuz riet in calling them as "unwurldly as a paer of baebys." No wun aet much, but every wun luukt verry hapy, and th oeld room seemd to brieten up amaezingly when th furst roemanss of th family began thaer.

"U can't sae nuthing plezant ever happens now, can U, Meg?" sed Amy, trieing to desied how she wuud groop th luvers in th skech she wuz planing to taek.

"No, I'm shuur I can't. How much has happened sinss I sed that! It seems a yeer ago," anserd Meg, hoo wuz in a blissful dreem, lifted far abuv such common things as bred and buter.

"Th joys cum cloez upon th sorroes this tiem, and I rather think th chaenjes hav begun," sed Mrs. March. "In moest familys thaer cums, now and then, a yeer fuul of events; this has been such an wun, but it ends wel, after all."

"Hoep th next wil end beter," muterd Jo, hoo found it verry hard to see Meg absorbd in a straenjer befor her faess; for Jo luvd a fue pursons verry deerly, and dreded to hav thaer affection lost or lesend in any wae.

"I hoep th thurd yeer from this wil end beter; I meen it shal, if I liv to wurk out mi plans," sed Mr. Brooke, smieling at Meg, as if everything had becum posibl to him now.

"Doesn't it seem verry long to waet?" askt Amy, hoo wuz in a hurry for th weding.

"I've got so much to lurn befor I shal be redy, it seems a short tiem to me," anserd Meg, with a sweet gravity in her faess, never seen thaer befor.

"U hav oenly to waet; I am to do th wurk," sed John, begining his laebors by piking up Meg's napkin, with an expreshon which cauzd Jo to shaek her hed, and then sae to herself, with an aer of releef, as th frunt dor bangd, "Heer cums Laurie. Now we shal hav a litl sensibl conversation."

For Mrs. John Brooke

But Jo wuz mistaeken; for Laurie caem pransing in, oeverfloeing with spirits, bearing a graet briedal-luuking bouquet for "Mrs. John Brooke," and evidently laeboring under th deloozhon that th hoel affair had been brought about by his exselent manejment.

288 "I knew Brooke wuud hav it all his oen wae, he aulwaes duz; for when he maeks up his miend to accomplish anything, it's dun, tho th ski fauls," sed Laurie, when he had prezented his ofering and his congrachulaeshons.

"Much obliejd for that recomendaeshon. I taek it as a guud oemen for th fuecher, and inviet U to mi weding on th spot," anserd Mr. Brooke, hoo felt at peess with all man-kiend, eeven his mischivus pupil.

"I'll cum if I'm at th ends of th urth; for th siet of Jo's faess aloen, on that ocaezhon, wuud be wurth a long jurny. U don't luuk festiv, maa'am; whut's th mater?" askt Laurie, foloeing her into a corner of th parlor, whither all had ajurnd to greet Mr. Laurence.

"I don't aproov of th mach, but I've maed up mi miend to baer it, and shal not sae a wurd against it," sed Jo solemly. "U can't noe how hard it is for me to giv up Meg," she continued, with a litl qiver in her vois.

"U don't giv her up. U oenly go havs," sed Laurie consolingly.

"It never can be th saem again. I've lost mi deerest frend," sighed Jo.

"U've got me, anyhow. I'm not guud for much, I noe; but 289 I'll stand by U, Jo, all th daes of mi lief; upon mi wurd I wil!" and Laurie ment whut he sed.

"I noe U wil, and I'm ever so much obliejd; U ar aulwaes a graet cumfort to me, Teddy," returnd Jo, graetfuly shaeking hands.

"Wel, now, don't be dizmal, thaer's a guud felo. It's all riet, U see. Meg is hapy; Brooke wil fli round and get setld imeediatly; grandpa wil atend to him, and it wil be verry joly to see Meg in her oen litl hous. We'll hav capital times after she is gon, for I shal be thru colej befor long, and then we'll go abraud, or sum niess trip or uther. Wouldn't that consoel U?"

"I rather think it wuud; but thaer's no noeing whut mae hapen in three yeers," sed Jo thautfuly.

"That's troo. Don't U wish U cuud taek a luuk forward, and see whaer we shal all be then? I do," returnd Laurie.

"I think not, for I miet see sumthing sad; and every wun luuks so hapy now, I don't beleev thae cuud be much improovd," and Jo's ies went sloely round th room, brietening as thae luukt, for th prospekt wuz a plezant wun.

Faather and muther sat together, qieetly re-living th furst chapter of th roemanss which for them began sum twenty yeers ago. Amy wuz drawing th luvers, hoo sat apart in a buetiful wurld of thaer oen, th liet of which tucht thaer faeses with a graess th litl artist cuud not copy. Beth lae on her soefa, tauking cheerily with her oeld frend, hoo held her litl hand as if he felt that it possessed th power to leed him along th peaceful wae she waukt. Jo lounged in her faevorit loe seet, with th graev, qieet luuk which best becaem her; and Laurie, leening on th bak of her chaer, his chin on a level with her curly hed, smield with his frendlyest aspekt, and noded at her in th long glas which reflekted them boeth.


So groopt, th curten fauls upon Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Whether it ever riezes again, depends upon th resepshon given to th furst akt of th domestik draama called "Litl Wimen."


Home of the Little Women
Hoem of th Litl Wimen

XXIV. Gosip.

293

Th Second Part


The Dove Cote
Th Duv-Cote

XXIV.

Gosip.

In order that we mae start afresh, and go to Meg's weding with free miends, it wil be wel to begin with a litl gosip about th Marches. And heer let me premis, that if any of th elders think thaer is too much "lovering" in th story, as I feer thae mae (I'm not afraed th yung foeks wil maek that objekshon), I can oenly sae with Mrs. March, "Whut can U expect when I hav foer gae gurls in th hous, and a dashing yung naebor oever th wae?"

Th three yeers that hav past hav brought but fue chaenjes to th qieet family. Th wor is oever, and Mr. March saefly at hoem, busy with his books and th small parish which found in him a minister by naechuur as by graess,—a qieet, stoodius man, rich in th wizdom 294 that is beter than lurning, th charrity which calls all man-kiend "bruther," th piety that blossoms into carrakter, maeking it august and luvly.

Thees atribuets, in spiet of poverty and th strikt integrity which shut him out from th mor wurldly successes, atrakted to him meny admerabl pursons, as nacheraly as sweet urbs draw bees, and as nacheraly he gaev them th huny into which fifty yeers of hard expeeri’enss had distild no biter drop. Urnest yung men found th grae-heded scolar as yung at hart as thae; thautful or trubld wimen instinktivly brought thaer doubts and sorroes to him, shuur of fiending th jentlest simpathy, th wiezest counsel; sinners toeld thaer sins to th puer-hearted oeld man, and wer boeth rebuekt and saevd; gifted men found a companyon in him; ambishus men caut glimpses of noebler ambishons than thaer oen; and eeven worldlings confest that his beleefs wer buetiful and troo, aultho "thae wouldn't pae."

To outsieders, th fiev enerjetik wimen seemd to rool th hous, and so thae did in meny things; but th qieet scolar, sitting amung his books, wuz still th hed of th family, th hous-hoeld conshenss, ancor, and comforter; for to him th busy, anxious wimen aulwaes turnd in troublous times, fiending him, in th truest senss of thoes saecred wurds, huzband and faather.

Th gurls gaev thaer harts into thaer muther's keeping, thaer soels into thaer faather's; and to boeth paerents, hoo livd and laebord so faethfuly for them, thae gaev a luv that groo with thaer groeth, and bound them tenderly together by th sweetest tie which bleses lief and outlivd deth.

Mrs. March is as brisk and cheery, tho rather graeer, than when we saw her last, and just now so absorbd in Meg's affairs that th hospitals and hoems, still fuul of woonded "boys" and soeljers' widoes, decidedly mis th mutherly mishonaery's vizits.

John Brooke did his duty manfuly for a yeer, got woonded, wuz sent hoem, and not alowd to return. He reseevd no stars or bars, but he dezurvd them, for he cheerfuly riskt all he had; and lief and luv ar verry precious when boeth ar in fuul bloom. Perfectly reziend to his discharj, he devoeted himself to geting wel, prepaering for business, and urning a hoem for Meg. With th guud senss 295 and sturdy independenss that carrakteriezd him, he refuezd Mr. Laurence's mor jenerus ofers, and accepted th plaess of book-keeper feeling beter satisfied to begin with an onestly-urnd salary, than by runing any risks with borrowed muny.

Meg had spent th tiem in wurking as wel as waeting, groeing wuumanly in carrakter, wiez in housewifely arts, and prityer than ever; for luv is a graet beautifier. She had her gurlish ambishons and hoeps, and felt sum disapointment at th humbl wae in which th nue lief must begin. Ned Moffat had just marryd Sallie Gardiner, and Meg couldn't help contrasting thaer fien hous and carrej, meny gifts, and splendid outfit, with her oen, and seecretly wishing she cuud hav th saem. But sumhow envy and discontent soon vanisht when she thaut of all th paeshent luv and laebor John had put into th litl hoem awaiting her; and when thae sat together in th twilight, tauking oever thaer small plans, th fuecher aulwaes groo so buetiful and briet that she forgot Sallie's splendor, and felt herself th richest, hapyest gurl in Christendom.

Jo never went bak to Ant March, for th oeld laedy tuuk such a fansy to Amy that she bribed her with th ofer of drawing lesons from wun of th best teechers going; and for th saek of this advantej, Amy wuud hav survd a far harder mistres. So she gaev her mornings to duty, her afternoons to plezher, and prosperd fienly. Jo, meentiem, devoeted herself to literachuur and Beth, hoo remaend delicat long after th feever wuz a thing of th past. Not an invalid exaktly, but never again th roezy, helthy creecher she had been; yet aulwaes hoepful, hapy, and sereen, busy with th qieet duties she luvd, every wun's frend, and an aenjel in th hous, long befor thoes hoo luvd her moest had lurnd to noe it.

As long as "Th Spred Eegl" paed her a dolar a column for her "rubish," as she called it, Jo felt herself a wuuman of means, and spun her litl roemanses dilijently. But graet plans fermented in her busy braen and ambishus miend, and th oeld tin kichen in th garret held a sloely increesing piel of bloted manuescript, which wuz wun dae to plaess th naem of March upon th roel of faem.

Laurie, having dutifully gon to colej to pleez his grandfaather, wuz now geting thru it in th eezyest posibl maner to pleez 296 himself. A uenivursal faevorit, thanks to muny, maners, much talent, and th kiendest hart that ever got its oener into scraeps by trieing to get uther peepl out of them, he stuud in graet daenjer of being spoilt, and probably wuud hav been, liek meny anuther promising boy, if he had not possessed a talisman against eevil in th memory of th kiend oeld man hoo wuz bound up in his success, th mutherly frend hoo wocht oever him as if he wer her sun, and last, but not leest by any means, th nolej that foer inosent gurls luvd, admierd, and beleevd in him with all thaer harts.

Being oenly "a glorius hueman boy," of corss he frolikt and flurted, groo dandified, aqotik, sentimental, or gymnastic, as colej fashons ordaend; haezd and wuz haezd, taukt slang, and mor than wunss caem perilously neer suspenshon and expulshon. But as hie spirits and th luv of fun wer th cauzes of thees pranks, he aulwaes manejd to saev himself by frank confeshon, onorabl atonement, or th irezistibl power of persuasion which he possessed in perfection. In fakt, he rather prided himself on his narro escaeps, and liked to thril th gurls with grafik accounts of his trieumfs oever rathful tuetors, dignified professors, and vanqisht enemys. Th "men of mi clas" wer heroes in th ies of th gurls, hoo never wearied of th exploits of "our feloes," and wer freeqently alowd to bask in th smiels of thees graet creechers, when Laurie brought them hoem with him.

Amy especially enjoyd this hie onor, and becaem qiet a belle amung them; for her ladyship eerly felt and lurnd to uez th gift of fasinaeshon with which she wuz endowd. Meg wuz too much absorbd in her private and particular John to caer for any uther lords of creaeshon, and Beth too shi to do mor than peep at them, and wunder how Amy dared to order them about so; but Jo felt qiet in her element, and found it verry dificult to refraen from imitaeting th jentlmanly atitoods, phrases, and feets, which seemd mor nacheral to her than th decorums prescriebd for yung laedys. Thae all liked Jo imensly, but never fel in luv with her, tho verry fue escaept without paying th tribute of a sentimental sie or too at Amy's shrien. And speeking of sentiment brings us verry nacheraly to th "Duv-cote."

That wuz th naem of th litl broun hous which Mr. Brooke had 297 prepaerd for Meg's furst hoem. Laurie had crisend it, saeing it wuz hiely aproepriat to th jentl luvers, hoo "went on together liek a paer of turtle-duvs, with furst a bil and then a coo." It wuz a tieny hous, with a litl garden behind, and a laun about as big as a poket-hankerchif in frunt. Heer Meg ment to hav a founten, shrubery, and a profusion of luvly flowers; tho just at prezent, th founten wuz reprezented by a wether-beeten urn, verry liek a dilapidaeted slop-boel; th shrubery consisted of several yung larches, undecided whether to liv or die; and th profusion of flowers wuz meerly hinted by rejiments of stiks, to sho whaer seeds wer planted. But insied, it wuz aultogether charming, and th hapy bried saw no fault from garret to selar. To be shuur, th haul wuz so narro, it wuz forchunat that thae had no piano, for wun never cuud hav been got in hoel; th diening-room wuz so small that six peepl wer a tight fit; and th kichen staers seemd bilt for th expres purpos of precipitating boeth survants and china pelmel into th coel-bin. But wunss get uezd to thees sliet blemishes, and nuthing cuud be mor complete, for guud senss and guud taest had prezieded oever th furnishing, and th rezult wuz hiely satisfaktory. Thaer wer no marbl-topt taebls, long mirors, or laess curtens in th litl parlor, but simpl furnicher, plenty of books, a fien pikcher or too, a stand of flowers in th bae-windo, and, scaterd all about, th prity gifts which caem from frendly hands, and wer th faerer for th luving mesejes thae brought.

I don't think th Parian Psyche Laurie gaev lost any of its buety because John put up th braket it stuud upon; that any uphoesterer cuud hav draept th plaen muzlin curtens mor graesfuly than Amy's artistik hand; or that any stor-room wuz ever beter provided with guud wishes, merry wurds, and hapy hoeps, than that in which Jo and her muther put away Meg's fue boxes, barrels, and bundles; and I am moraly surten that th spandy-nue kichen never cuud hav luukt so cosey and neet if Hannah had not araenjd every pot and paen a duzen times oever, and laed th fier all redy for lieting, th mienuet "Mis. Brooke caem hoem." I aulso dout if any yung maetron ever began lief with so rich a suplie of dusters, hoelders, and peess-bags; for Beth maed enough to last till th silver weding caem 298 round, and invented three diferent kiends of dishcloths for th expres survis of th briedal china.

Peepl hoo hier all thees things dun for them never noe whut thae looz; for th homeliest tasks get beautified if luving hands do them, and Meg found so meny proofs of this, that everything in her small nest, from th kichen roeler to th silver vaess on her parlor taebl, wuz eloquent of hoem luv and tender forthaut.

Whut hapy times thae had planing together, whut solem shoping excursions; whut funy mistaeks thae maed, and whut shouts of lafter aroez oever Laurie's ridicuelus bargans. In his luv of joeks, this yung jentlman, tho neerly thru colej, wuz as much of a boy as ever. His last whim had been to bring with him, on his weekly vizits, sum nue, uesful, and injeenius artikl for th yung houskeeper. Now a bag of remarkabl cloeths-pins; next, a wunderful nutmeg-graeter, which fel to pieces at th furst trieal; a nief-cleener that spoilt all th nievs; or a sweeper that pikt th nap neetly off th carpet, and left th durt; laebor-saeving soep that tuuk th skin off wun's hands; infalibl sements which stuk furmly to nuthing but th finggers of th delooded bieer; and every kiend of tin-waer, from a toy saevings-bank for od penys, to a wunderful boiler which wuud wosh artikls in its oen steem, with every prospekt of exploeding in th process.

In vaen Meg begd him to stop. John laft at him, and Jo called him "Mr. Toodls." He wuz possessed with a maenia for patronizing Yankee injenueity, and seeing his frends fitly furnisht forth. So eech week beheld sum fresh absurdity.

Everything wuz dun at last, eeven to Amy's araenjing diferent culord soeps to mach th diferent culord rooms, and Beth's setting th taebl for th furst meel.

"Ar U satisfied? Duz it seem liek hoem, and do U feel as if U should be hapy heer?" askt Mrs. March, as she and her dauter went thru th nue kingdom, arm-in-arm; for just then thae seemd to cling together mor tenderly than ever.

"Yes, muther, perfectly satisfied, thanks to U all, and so hapy that I can't tauk about it," anserd Meg, with a luuk that wuz beter than wurds.

299 "If she oenly had a survant or too it wuud be all riet," sed Amy, cuming out of th parlor, whaer she had been trieing to desied whether th bronze Murkery luukt best on th whotnot or th mantl-peess.

"Muther and I hav taukt that oever, and I hav maed up mi miend to tri her wae furst. Thaer wil be so litl to do, that, with Lotty to run mi errands and help me heer and thaer, I shal oenly hav enough wurk to keep me from geting laezy or hoemsik," anserd Meg tranquilly.

"Sallie Moffat has foer," began Amy.

"If Meg had foer th hous wouldn't hoeld them, and master and missis wuud hav to camp in th garden," broek in Jo, hoo, enveloped in a big bloo pinafore, wuz giving th last polish to th dor-handls.

"Sallie isn't a puur man's wief, and meny maeds ar in keeping with her fien establishment. Meg and John begin humbly, but I hav a feeling that thaer wil be qiet as much hapynes in th litl hous as in th big wun. It's a graet mistaek for yung gurls liek Meg to leev themselvs nuthing to do but dres, giv orders, and gosip. When I wuz furst marryd, I uezd to long for mi nue cloeths to waer out or get torn, so that I miet hav th plezher of mending them; for I got hartily sik of dooing fansy wurk and tending mi poket hankerchif."

"Whi didn't U go into th kichen and maek meses, as Sallie sez she duz, to amuez herself, tho thae never turn out wel, and th survants laf at her," sed Meg.

"I did, after a whiel; not to 'mes,' but to lurn of Hannah how things should be dun, that mi survants need not laf at me. It wuz plae then; but thaer caem a tiem when I wuz truly graetful that I not oenly possessed th wil but th power to cuuk hoelsum food for mi litl gurls, and help mieself when I cuud no longer afford to hier help. U begin at th uther end, Meg, deer; but th lesons U lurn now wil be of uez to U by and by, when John is a richer man, for th mistres of a hous, however splendid, should noe how wurk aut to be dun, if she wishes to be wel and onestly survd."

"Yes, muther, I'm shuur of that," sed Meg, lisening respektfuly to th litl lecture; for th best of wimen wil hoeld forth upon th all-absorbing 300 subjekt of houskeeping. "Do U noe I liek this room moest of all in mi baeby-hous," aded Meg, a mienuet after, as thae went upstaers, and she luukt into her wel-stord linen-clozet.

Beth wuz thaer, laeing th snoey piels smoothly on th shelvs, and exulting oever th guudly arae. All three laft as Meg spoek; for that linen-clozet wuz a joek. U see, having sed that if Meg marryd "that Brooke" she shouldn't hav a sent of her muny, Ant March wuz rather in a qondary, when tiem had appeased her rath and maed her repent her vow. She never broek her wurd, and wuz much exercised in her miend how to get round it, and at last deviezd a plan whaerbi she cuud satisfi herself. Mrs. Carrol, Florence's maama, wuz orderd to bie, hav maed, and markt, a jenerus suplie of hous and taebl linen, and send it as her prezent, all of which wuz faethfuly dun; but th seecret leekt out, and wuz graetly enjoyd by th family; for Ant March tried to luuk utterly unconshus, and insisted that she cuud giv nuthing but th oeld-fashond pearls, long promist to th furst bried.

"That's a housewifely taest which I am glad to see. I had a yung frend hoo set up houskeeping with six sheets, but she had fingger boels for company, and that satisfied her," sed Mrs. March, pating th damask taebl-cloths, with a truly feminine appreciation of thaer fiennes.

"I haeven't a singgl fingger-boel, but this is a 'set out' that wil last me all mi daes, Hannah sez;" and Meg luukt qiet contented, as wel she miet.

"Toodls is cuming," cried Jo from beloe; and thae all went doun to meet Laurie, hoos weekly vizit wuz an important event in thaer qieet lievs.

A taul, braud-shouldered yung felo, with a cropt hed, a felt-basin of a hat, and a fli-away coet, caem tramping doun th roed at a graet paess, waukt oever th loe fenss without stoping to oepen th gaet, straet up to Mrs. March, with boeth hands out, and a harty—

"Heer I am, muther! Yes, it's all riet."

Th last wurds wer in anser to th luuk th elder laedy gaev him; a kiendly qeschoning luuk, which th handsum ies met so frankly that th litl serremoeny cloezd, as uezhual, with a mutherly kis.

301 "For Mrs. John Brooke, with th maeker's congrachulaeshons and compliments. Bles U, Beth! Whut a refreshing spektakl U ar, Jo. Amy, U ar geting aultogether too handsum for a singgl laedy."

As Laurie spoek, he deliverd a broun paeper parsel to Meg, puuld Beth's haer-ribon, staerd at Jo's big pinafore, and fel into an atitued of mok rapcher befor Amy, then shuuk hands all round, and every wun began to tauk.

"Whaer is John?" askt Meg anxiously.

"Stopt to get th liesenss for to-morro, maa'am."

"Which sied wun th last mach, Teddy?" inqierd Jo, hoo persisted in feeling an interest in manly sports, despiet her nienteen yeers.

"Ours, of corss. Wish U'd been thaer to see."

"How is th luvly Mis Randal?" askt Amy, with a significant smiel.

"Mor crooel than ever; don't U see how I'm piening away?" and Laurie gaev his braud chest a sounding slap and heevd a melodramatik sie.

"Whut's th last joek? Undo th bundle and see, Meg," sed Beth, ieing th noby parsel with cueriosity.

"It's a uesful thing to hav in th hous in caess of fier or theevs," obzurvd Laurie, as a wochman's ratl apeerd, amid th lafter of th gurls.

A small watchman's rattle

"Any tiem when John is away, and U get frietend, Mrs. Meg, just swing that out of th frunt windo, and it wil rouz th naeborhuud in a jiffy. Niess thing, isn't it?" and Laurie gaev them a sampl of its powers that maed them cuver up thaer eers.

"Thaer's gratitood for U! and speeking of gratitood remiends me to menshon that U mae thank Hannah for saeving yuur weding-caek from destrukshon. I saw it going into yuur hous as I caem by, and if she hadn't defended it manfuly I'd hav had a pik at it, for it luukt liek a remarkably plummy wun."

"I wunder if U wil ever gro up, Laurie," sed Meg, in a maetronly toen.

"I'm dooing mi best, maa'am, but can't get much hieer, I'm afraed, as six feet is about all men can do in thees dejeneraet daes," 302 responded th yung jentlman, hoos hed wuz about level with th litl shandeleer. "I supoez it wuud be profanation to eat anything in this spick and span nue bower, so, as I'm tremendously hunggry, I propoez an ajurnment," he aded prezently.

"Muther and I ar going to waet for John. Thaer ar sum last things to setl," sed Meg, busling away.

"Beth and I ar going oever to Kity Bryant's to get mor flowers for to-morro," aded Amy, tieing a picturesque hat oever her picturesque curls, and enjoying th efekt as much as anybody.

"Cum, Jo, don't dezurt a felo. I'm in such a staet of exauschon I can't get hoem without help. Don't taek off yuur apron, whotever U do; it's peculiarly becuming," sed Laurie, as Jo bestoed his especial avurzhon in her capacious poket, and oferd him her arm to suport his feebl steps.

"Now, Teddy, I wont to tauk seeriusly to U about to-morro," began Jo, as thae stroeld away together. "U must promis to behaev wel, and not cut up any pranks, and spoil our plans."

303 "Not a prank."

"And don't sae funy things when we aut to be soeber."

"I never do; U ar th wun for that."

"And I implor U not to luuk at me duuring th serremoeny; I shal surtenly laf if U do."

"U wun't see me; U'll be crieing so hard that th thik fog round U wil obscuer th prospekt."

"I never cri unles for sum graet aflikshon."

"Such as feloes going to colej, hae?" cut in Laurie, with a suggestive laf.

"Don't be a peacock. I oenly moend a trifle to keep th gurls company."

"Exaktly. I sae, Jo, how is grandpa this week; prity aemiabl?"

"Verry; whi, hav U got into a scraep, and wont to noe how he'll taek it?" askt Jo rather sharply.

"Now, Jo, do U think I'd luuk yuur muther in th faess, and sae 'All riet,' if it wasn't?" and Laurie stopt short, with an injerd aer.

"No, I don't."

"Then don't go and be suspishus; I oenly wont sum muny," sed Laurie, wauking on again, appeased by her harty toen.

"U spend a graet deel, Teddy."

"Bles U, I don't spend it; it spends itself, sumhow, and is gon befor I noe it."

"U ar so jenerus and kiend-hearted that U let peepl borrow, and can't sae 'No' to any wun. We hurd about Henshaw, and all U did for him. If U aulwaes spent muny in that wae, no wun wuud blaem U," sed Jo wormly.

"O, he maed a mounten out of a moel-hil. U wouldn't hav me let that fien felo wurk himself to deth, just for th wont of a litl help, when he is wurth a duzen of us laezy chaps, wuud U?"

"Of corss not; but I don't see th uez of yuur having seventeen waestcoets, endles nekties, and a nue hat every tiem U cum hoem. I thaut U'd got oever th dandy period; but every now and then it braeks out in a nue spot. Just now it's th fashon to be hidius,—to maek yuur hed luuk liek a scrubing-brush, waer a 304 straet-jaket, orenj gluvs, and clumping, square-toed boots. If it wuz cheep ugliness, I'd sae nuthing; but it costs as much as th uther, and I don't get any satisfakshon out of it."

Laurie throo bak his hed, and laft so hartily at this attack, that th felt-basin fel off, and Jo waukt on it, which insult oenly afforded him an oportuenity for expatiating on th advantejes of a ruf-and-redy costume, as he foelded up th maltreted hat, and stuft it into his poket.

"Don't lecture any mor, thaer's a guud soel! I hav enough all thru th week, and liek to enjoy mieself when I cum hoem. I'll get mieself up regardles of expense, to-morro, and be a satisfakshon to mi frends."

"I'll leev U in peess if U'll oenly let yuur haer gro. I'm not aristocratic, but I do objekt to being seen with a purson hoo luuks liek a yung priez-fieter," obzurvd Jo seveerly.

"This unasueming stiel promoets study; that's whi we adopt it," returnd Laurie, hoo surtenly cuud not be accused of vanity, having voluntaerily sacrifiest a handsum curly crop to th demand for qorter-of-an-inch-long stubl.

"By th wae, Jo, I think that litl Parker is reealy geting desperat about Amy. He tauks of her constantly, riets poetry, and moons about in a moest suspishus maner. He'd beter nip his litl pashon in th bud, hadn't he?" aded Laurie, in a confidenshal, elder-brutherly toen, after a mienuet's silence.

"Of corss he had; we don't wont any mor marrying in this family for yeers to cum. Mursy on us, whut ar th children thinking of?" and Jo luukt as much scandalized as if Amy and litl Parker wer not yet in thaer teens.

"It's a fast aej, and I don't noe whut we ar cuming to, maa'am. U ar a meer infant, but U'll go next, Jo, and we'll be left lamenting," sed Laurie, shaeking his hed oever th dejenerasy of th times.

"Don't be alarmd; I'm not wun of th agreeabl sort. Noebody wil wont me, and it's a mursy, for thaer should aulwaes be wun oeld maed in a family."

"U wun't giv any wun a chanss," sed Laurie, with a sidelong 305 glanss, and a litl mor culor than befor in his sunburnt faess. "U wun't sho th soft sied of yuur carrakter; and if a felo gets a peep at it by accident, and can't help shoeing that he lieks it, U treat him as Mrs. Gummidge did her sweetheart,—thro coeld wauter oever him,—and get so thorny no wun dares tuch or luuk at U."

"I don't liek that sort of thing; I'm too busy to be wuryd with nonsenss, and I think it's dredful to braek up familys so. Now don't sae any mor about it; Meg's weding has turnd all our heds, and we tauk of nuthing but luvers and such absurdities. I don't wish to get cros, so let's chaenj th subjekt;" and Jo luukt qiet redy to fling coeld wauter on th slightest provocaeshon.

Whotever his feelings miet hav been, Laurie found a vent for them in a long loe whisl, and th feerful prediction, as thae parted at th gaet, "Mark mi wurds, Jo, U'll go next."

Tail-piece

XXV. Th Furst Weding.

306

The First Wedding

XXV.

Th Furst Weding.

Th June roezes oever th porch wer awake briet and eerly on that morning, rejoising with all thaer harts in th cloudles sunshine, liek frendly litl naebors, as thae wer. Qiet flusht with exsietment wer thaer rudy faeses, as thae swung in th wiend, whispering to wun anuther whut thae had seen; for sum peept in at th diening-room windoes, whaer th feest wuz spred, sum cliemd up to nod and smiel at th sisters as thae drest th bried, others waevd a welcum to thoes hoo caem and went on vaerius errands in garden, porch, and haul, and all, from th roezyest fuul-bloen flower to th palest baeby-bud, oferd thaer tribute of buety and fraegranss to th jentl mistres hoo had luvd and tended them so long.

307 Meg luukt verry liek a roez herself; for all that wuz best and sweetest in hart and soel seemd to bloom into her faess that dae, maeking it faer and tender, with a charm mor buetiful than buety. Neether silk, laess, nor orenj-flowers wuud she hav. "I don't wont to luuk straenj or fixed up to-dae," she sed. "I don't wont a fashonabl weding, but oenly thoes about me hoom I luv, and to them I wish to luuk and be mi familyar self."

So she maed her weding goun herself, soeing into it th tender hoeps and inosent roemanses of a gurlish hart. Her sisters braeded up her prity haer, and th oenly ornaments she wor wer th lilys of th valy, which "her John" liked best of all th flowers that groo.

"U do luuk just liek our oen deer Meg, oenly so verry sweet and luvly that I should hug U if it wouldn't crumpl yuur dres," cried Amy, survaeing her with deliet, when all wuz dun.

"Then I am satisfied. But pleez hug and kis me, every wun, and don't miend mi dres; I wont a graet meny crumpls of this sort put into it to-dae;" and Meg oepend her arms to her sisters, hoo clung about her with April faeses for a mienuet, feeling that th nue luv had not chaenjd th oeld.

"Now I'm going to tie John's cravat for him, and then to stae a fue minits with faather qieetly in th study;" and Meg ran doun to perform thees litl serremoenys, and then to folo her muther whaerever she went, conshus that, in spiet of th smiels on th mutherly faess, thaer wuz a seecret sorro hid in th mutherly hart at th fliet of th furst burd from th nest.

As th yungger gurls stand together, giving th last tuches to thaer simpl toilet, it mae be a guud tiem to tel of a fue chaenjes which three yeers hav raut in thaer apeeranss; for all ar luuking thaer best just now.

Jo's angles ar much sofend; she has lurnd to carry herself with eez, if not graess. Th curly crop has lengthened into a thik coil, mor becuming to th small hed atop of th taul figuer. Thaer is a fresh culor in her broun cheeks, a soft shien in her ies, and oenly jentl wurds faul from her sharp tung to-dae.

Beth has groen slender, pale, and mor qieet than ever; th buetiful, kiend ies ar larjer, and in them lies an expreshon that saddens 308 wun, aultho it is not sad itself. It is th shado of paen which tuches th yung faess with such pathetik paeshenss; but Beth seldom complaens, and aulwaes speeks hoepfuly of "being beter soon."

Amy is with trooth considerd "th flower of th family;" for at sixteen she has th aer and bearing of a fuul-groen wuuman—not buetiful, but possessed of that indescriebabl charm called graess. Wun saw it in th liens of her figuer, th maek and moeshon of her hands, th flo of her dres, th droop of her haer,—unconshus, yet harmoenius, and as atraktiv to meny as buety itself. Amy's noez still aflikted her, for it never wuud gro Grecian; so did her mouth, being too wied, and having a desieded chin. Thees ofending feechers gaev carrakter to her hoel faess, but she never cuud see it, and consoeld herself with her wunderfuly faer complexion, keen bloo ies, and curls, mor goelden and abundant than ever.

All three wor suits of thin silver grae (thaer best gouns for th sumer), with blush-roezes in haer and bosom; and all three luukt just whut thae wer,—fresh-faest, hapy-hearted gurls, pausing a moement in thaer busy lievs to red with wistful ies th sweetest chapter in th roemanss of wuumanhuud.

Thaer wer to be no serremoenius performances, everything wuz to be as nacheral and homelike as posibl; so when Ant March arrived, she wuz scandalized to see th bried cum runing to welcum and leed her in, to fiend th briedgroom fasening up a garland that had faulen doun, and to cach a glimps of th paturnal minister marching upstaers with a graev countenanss, and a wien-botl under eech arm.

"Upon mi wurd, heer's a staet of things!" cried th oeld laedy, taeking th seet of onor prepaerd for her, and setling th foelds of her lavender moire with a graet rusl. "U oughtn't to be seen till th last mienuet, chield."

"I'm not a sho, aunty, and no wun is cuming to staer at me, to criticise mi dres, or count th cost of mi lunchon. I'm too hapy to caer whut any wun sez or thinks, and I'm going to hav mi litl weding just as I liek it. John, deer, heer's yuur hamer;" and away went Meg to help "that man" in his hiely improper employment.

Mr. Brooke didn't eeven sae "Thank U," but as he stoopt for th 309 unromantik tool, he kist his litl bried behind th foelding-dor, with a luuk that maed Ant March whisk out her poket-hankerchif, with a suden due in her sharp oeld ies.

A crash, a cri, and a laf from Laurie, accompanied by th indecorus exclamation, "Jupiter Ammon! Jo's upset th caek again!" cauzd a moementaery flury, which wuz hardly oever when a flok of cuzins arrived, and "th party caem in," as Beth uezd to sae when a chield.

"Don't let that yung jieant cum neer me; he wurys me wurss than moskeetoes," whisperd th oeld laedy to Amy, as th rooms fild, and Laurie's blak hed towered abuv th rest.

"He has promist to be verry guud to-dae, and he can be perfectly elegant if he lieks," returnd Amy, glieding away to worn Hercules to bewaer of th dragon, which worning cauzd him to haunt th oeld laedy with a devoeshon that neerly distracted her.

Thaer wuz no briedal procession, but a suden silence fel upon th room as Mr. March and th yung paer tuuk thaer plaeses under th green arch. Muther and sisters gatherd cloez, as if loeth to giv Meg up; th faatherly vois broek mor than wunss, which oenly seemd to maek th survis mor buetiful and solem; th briedgroom's hand trembld vizibly, and no wun hurd his replies; but Meg luukt straet up in her huzband's ies, and sed, "I wil!" with such tender trust in her oen faess and vois that her muther's hart rejoist, and Ant March snift aubibly.

Jo did not cri, tho she wuz verry neer it wunss, and wuz oenly saevd from a demonstraeshon by th conshusnes that Laurie wuz staering fixedly at her, with a comikal mixcher of merriment and emotion in his wiked blak ies. Beth kept her faess hiden on her muther's shoulder, but Amy stuud liek a graesful stachoo, with a moest becuming rae of sunshine tuching her whiet forhed and th flower in her haer.

It wasn't at all th thing, I'm afraed, but th mienuet she wuz faerly marryd, Meg cried, "Th furst kis for Marmee!" and, turning, gaev it with her hart on her lips. Duuring th next fifteen minits she luukt mor liek a roez than ever, for every wun availed themselvs of thaer privilejes to th fuulest extent, from Mr. Laurence to oeld Hannah, hoo, adornd with a hed-dres fearfully and wunderfuly maed, fel 310 upon her in th haul, crieing, with a sob and a chukl, "Bles U, deary, a hundred times! Th caek ain't hurt a miet, and everything luuks luvly."

Everybody cleerd up after that, and sed sumthing brilliant, or tried to, which did just as wel, for lafter is redy when harts ar liet. Thaer wuz no displae of gifts, for thae wer aulredy in th litl hous, nor wuz thaer an elaboraet brekfast, but a plentiful lunch of caek and froot, drest with flowers. Mr. Laurence and Ant March shrugd and smield at wun anuther when wauter, lemonaed, and cofy wer found to be th oenly sorts of nektar which th three Hebes carried round. No wun sed anything, however, till Laurie, hoo insisted on surving th bried, apeerd befor her, with a loeded salver in his hand and a puzzled expreshon on his faess.

"Has Jo smashed all th botls by accident?" he whisperd, "or am I meerly laeboring under a deloozhon that I saw sum lieing about looss this morning?"

"No; yuur grandfaather kiendly oferd us his best, and Ant March akchualy sent sum, but faather put away a litl for Beth, and despacht th rest to th Soeljers' Hoem. U noe he thinks that wien should be uezd oenly in ilnes, and muther sez that neether she nor her dauters wil ever ofer it to any yung man under her roof."

Meg spoek seeriusly, and expected to see Laurie froun or laf; but he did neether, for after a qik luuk at her, he sed, in his impechu’us wae, "I liek that! for I've seen enough harm dun to wish uther wimen wuud think as U do."

"U ar not maed wiez by expeeri’enss, I hoep?" and thaer wuz an anxious accent in Meg's vois.

"No; I giv U mi wurd for it. Don't think too wel of me, eether; this is not wun of mi temptaeshons. Being brought up whaer wien is as common as wauter, and aulmoest as harmles, I don't caer for it; but when a prity gurl ofers it, wun doesn't liek to refuez, U see."

"But U wil, for th saek of others, if not for yuur oen. Cum, Laurie, promis, and giv me wun mor reezon to call this th hapyest dae of mi lief."

A demand so suden and so seerius maed th yung man hezitaet a moement, for ridicuel is ofen harder to baer than self-denieal. Meg 311 knew that if he gaev th promis he wuud keep it at all costs; and, feeling her power, uezd it as a wuuman mae for her frend's guud. She did not speek, but she luukt up at him with a faess maed verry eloquent by hapynes, and a smiel which sed, "No wun can refuez me anything to-dae." Laurie surtenly cuud not; and, with an ansering smiel, he gaev her his hand, saeing hartily, "I promis, Mrs. Brooke!"

"I thank U, verry, verry much."

"And I drink 'long lief to yuur rezolooshon,' Teddy," cried Jo, baptiezing him with a splash of lemonaed, as she waevd her glas, and beemd approvingly upon him.

So th toest wuz drunk, th plej maed, and loyaly kept, in spiet of meny temptaeshons; for, with instinktiv wizdom, th gurls had seezd a hapy moement to do thaer frend a survis, for which he thankt them all his lief.

After lunch, peepl stroeld about, by toos and threes, thru hous and garden, enjoying th sunshine without and within. Meg and John happened to be standing together in th midl of th gras-plot, when Laurie wuz seezd with an inspiraeshon which put th finishing tuch to this unfashonabl weding.

"All th marryd peepl taek hands and danss round th nue-maed huzband and wief, as th Germans do, whiel we bachelors and spinsters pranss in cupls outsied!" cried Laurie, promenading doun th path with Amy, with such infectious spirit and skil that every wun else foloed thaer exampl without a murmer. Mr. and Mrs. March, Ant and Unkl Carrol, began it; others rapidly joind in; eeven Sallie Moffat, after a moement's hezitaeshon, throo her traen oever her arm, and whiskt Ned into th ring. But th crouning joek wuz Mr. Laurence and Ant March; for when th stately oeld jentlman chasséed solemly up to th oeld laedy, she just tukt her caen under her arm, and hopt briskly away to join hands with th rest, and danss about th briedal paer, whiel th yung foeks pervaeded th garden, liek butterflies on a midsumer dae.

Wont of breth brought th impromptoo baul to a cloez, and then peepl began to go.

"I wish U wel, mi deer, I hartily wish U wel; but I think 312 U'll be sorry for it," sed Ant March to Meg, ading to th briedgroom, as he led her to th carrej, "U've got a treasure, yung man, see that U dezurv it."

"That is th prityest weding I've been to for an aej, Ned, and I don't see whi, for thaer wasn't a bit of stiel about it," obzurvd Mrs. Moffat to her huzband, as thae droev away.

"Laurie, mi lad, if U ever wont to indulj in this sort of thing, get wun of thoes litl gurls to help U, and I shal be perfectly satisfied," sed Mr. Laurence, setling himself in his eezy-chaer to rest, after th exsietment of th morning.

"I'll do mi best to gratifi U, sur," wuz Laurie's unuezhualy dutiful replie, as he carefully unpinned th posy Jo had put in his buton-hoel.

Th litl hous wuz not far away, and th oenly briedal jurny Meg had wuz th qieet wauk with John, from th oeld hoem to th nue. When she caem doun, luuking liek a prity Quakeress in her duv-culord suit and straw bonnet tied with whiet, thae all gatherd about her to sae "guud-by," as tenderly as if she had been going to maek th grand tour.

"Don't feel that I am separaeted from U, Marmee deer, or that I luv U any th les for luving John so much," she sed, clinging to her muther, with fuul ies, for a moement. "I shal cum every dae, faather, and expect to keep mi oeld plaess in all yuur harts, tho I am marryd. Beth is going to be with me a graet deel, and th uther gurls wil drop in now and then to laf at mi houskeeping strugls. Thank U all for mi hapy weding-dae. Guud-by, guud-by!"

Thae stuud woching her, with faeses fuul of luv and hoep and tender pride, as she waukt away, leening on her huzband's arm, with her hands fuul of flowers, and th June sunshine brietening her hapy faess,—and so Meg's marryd lief began.


XXVI. Artistik Atempts.

313

Artistic Attempts

XXVI.

Artistik Atempts.

It taeks peepl a long tiem to lurn th diferenss between talent and jeenyus, especially ambishus yung men and wimen. Amy wuz lurning this distinkshon thru much tribulation; for, mistaeking enthusiasm for inspiraeshon, she atempted every branch of art with yoothful audasity. For a long tiem thaer wuz a lul in th "mud-pie" business, and she devoeted herself to th fienest pen-and-ink drawing, in which she shoed such taest and skil that her graesful handiwork proovd boeth plezant and profitabl. But oeverstraend ies soon cauzd pen and ink to be laed asied for a boeld atempt at poeker-skeching. Whiel this attack lasted, th family livd in constant feer of a conflagraeshon; for th odor of burning wuud pervaeded th hous at 314 all ours; smoek ishood from attic and shed with alarming freeqensys, red-hot poekers lae about promiscuously, and Hannah never went to bed without a pael of wauter and th diner-bel at her dor, in caess of fier. Raphael's faess wuz found boeldly exsecueted on th under sied of th moulding-bord, and Bacchus on th hed of a beer-barrel; a chanting cherrub adornd th cuver of th sugar-buket, and atempts to portray Romeo and Juliet suplied kindlings for sum tiem.

From fier to oil wuz a nacheral tranzishon for burnt finggers, and Amy fel to paenting with undiminished ardor. An artist frend fited her out with his cast-off palettes, brushes, and culors; and she daubd away, producing pastoral and mareen vues such as wer never seen on land or see. Her monstrositys in th wae of catl wuud hav taeken priezes at an agriculcheral faer; and th perilous piching of her vesels wuud hav produced see-siknes in th moest nautikal obzurver, if th uter disregard to all noen rools of shipbuilding and riging had not convulst him with lafter at th furst glanss. Swarthy boys and dark-ied Madonnas, staering at U from wun corner of th studio, sugjested Murillo; oily-broun shadoes of faeses, with a luurid streek in th rong plaess, ment Rembrandt; buxom laedys and dropsical infants, Rubens; and Turner apeerd in tempests of bloo thunder, orenj lieting, broun raen, and purpl clouds, with a tomaeto-culord splash in th midl, which miet be th sun or a buoy, a saelor's shurt or a king's roeb, as th spektaetor pleezd.

Her foot held fast in a panful of plaster

Charcoel portraits caem next; and th entier family hung in a row (noun), luuking as wield and crocky as if just evoked from a coel-bin. Sofend into craeon skeches, thae did beter; for th likenesses wer guud, and Amy's haer, Jo's noez, Meg's mouth, and Laurie's ies wer pronounced "wunderfuly fien." A return to clay and plaster foloed, and goestly casts of her acquaintances haunted corners of th hous, or tumbld off clozet-shelvs on to peepl's heds. Children wer entiest in as models, till thaer incoeheerent accounts of her misteerius dooings cauzd Mis Amy to be regarded in th liet of a yung oegres. Her eforts in this lien, however, wer brought to an abrupt cloez by an untord accident, which qencht her ardor. Uther models faeling her for a tiem, she undertuuk to cast her oen 315 prity fuut, and th family wer wun dae alarmd by an unurthly bumping and screeming, and runing to th rescue, found th yung enthusiast hoping wieldly about th shed, with her fuut held fast in a paen-fuul of plaster, which had hardend with unexpekted rapidity. With much dificulty and sum daenjer she wuz dug out; for Jo wuz so oevercum with lafter whiel she excavated, that her nief went too far, cut th puur fuut, and left a lasting memorial of wun artistik atempt, at leest.

After this Amy subsided, till a maenia for skeching from naechuur set her to haunting river, feeld, and wuud, for picturesque studys, and sieing for rooins to copy. She caut endles colds sitting on damp gras to book "a delicious bit," compoezd of a stoen, a stump, wun mushroom, and a broeken mullein-stauk, or "a hevenly mas of clouds," that luukt liek a chois displae of fether-beds when dun. She sacrifiest her complexion floeting on th river in th midsumer sun, to study liet and shaed, and got a rinks oever her noez, trieing after "points of siet," or whotever th sqint-and-string performance is called.

If "jeenyus is eternal paeshenss," as Michael Angelo affirms, Amy surtenly had sum claem to th divine atribuet, for she perseveerd in spiet of all obstakls, faeluers, and discurejments, furmly beleeving that in tiem she should do sumthing wurthy to be called "hie art."

316 She wuz lurning, dooing, and enjoying uther things, meenwhiel, for she had rezolvd to be an atraktiv and accomplished wuuman, eeven if she never becaem a graet artist. Heer she succeeded beter; for she wuz wun of thoes hapily creaeted beings hoo pleez without efort, maek frends everywhaer, and taek lief so graesfuly and eezily that les forchunat soels ar tempted to beleev that such ar born under a luky star. Everybody liked her, for amung her guud gifts wuz takt. She had an instinktiv senss of whut wuz pleezing and proper, aulwaes sed th riet thing to th riet purson, did just whut suited th tiem and plaess, and wuz so self-possessed that her sisters uezd to sae, "If Amy went to cort without any rehursal beforehand, she'd noe exaktly whut to do."

Wun of her weekneses wuz a dezier to moov in "our best soesieety," without being qiet shuur whut th best reealy wuz. Muny, pozishon, fashonabl accomplishments, and elegant maners wer moest dezierabl things in her ies, and she liked to asoeshiat with thoes hoo possessed them, ofen mistaeking th faulss for th troo, and admiering whut wuz not admerabl. Never forgeting that by burth she wuz a jentlwuuman, she cultivaeted her aristocratic taests and feelings, so that when th oportuenity caem she miet be redy to taek th plaess from which poverty now exclooded her.

"Mi laedy," as her frends called her, sincerely dezierd to be a jenuein laedy, and wuz so at hart, but had yet to lurn that muny cannot bie refienment of naechuur, that rank duz not aulwaes confur noebility, and that troo breeding maeks itself felt in spiet of exturnal drawbacks.

"I wont to ask a faevor of U, maama," Amy sed, cuming in, with an important aer, wun dae.

"Wel, litl gurl, whut is it?" replied her muther, in hoos ies th stately yung laedy still remaend "th baeby."

"Our drawing clas braeks up next week, and befor th gurls separet for th sumer, I wont to ask them out heer for a dae. Thae ar wield to see th river, skech th broeken bridge, and copy sum of th things thae admier in mi book. Thae hav been verry kiend to me in meny waes, and I am graetful, for thae ar all rich, and noe I am puur, yet thae never maed any diferenss."

"Whi should thae?" and Mrs. March put th qeschon with whut th gurls called her "Maria Theresa aer."

317 "U noe as wel as I that it duz maek a diferenss with neerly every wun, so don't rufl up, liek a deer, mutherly hen, when yuur chikens get pecked by smarter burds; th ugly dukling turnd out a swan, U noe;" and Amy smield without bitterness, for she possessed a hapy temper and hoepful spirit.

Mrs. March laft, and smoothd doun her maturnal pride as she askt,—

"Wel, mi swan, whut is yuur plan?"

"I should liek to ask th gurls out to lunch next week, to taek them a driev to th plaeses thae wont to see, a row (noun) on th river, perhaps, and maek a litl artistik fête for them."

"That luuks feezibl. Whut do U wont for lunch? Caek, sandwiches, froot, and cofy wil be all that is nesesaery, I supoez?"

"O deer, no! we must hav coeld tung and chiken, French chocolat and iess-creem, besieds. Th gurls ar uezd to such things, and I wont mi lunch to be proper and elegant, tho I do wurk for mi living."

"How meny yung laedys ar thaer?" askt her muther, begining to luuk soeber.

"Twelve or foerteen in th clas, but I daer sae thae wun't all cum."

"Bles me, chield, U wil hav to charter an omnibus to carry them about."

"Whi, muther, how can U think of such a thing? Not mor than six or aet wil probably cum, so I shal hier a beech-wagon, and borrow Mr. Laurence's cherry-bounss." (Hannah's pronunciation of char-à-banc.)

"All this wil be expensive, Amy."

"Not verry; I've calcuelaeted th cost, and I'll pae for it mieself."

"Don't U think, deer, that as thees gurls ar uezd to such things, and th best we can do wil be nuthing nue, that sum simpler plan wuud be plezanter to them, as a chaenj, if nuthing mor, and much beter for us than buying or borrowing whut we don't need, and attempting a stiel not in keeping with our surcumstanses?"

"If I can't hav it as I liek, I don't caer to hav it at all. I noe that I can carry it out perfectly wel, if U and th gurls wil help a 318 litl; and I don't see whi I can't if I'm wiling to pae for it," sed Amy, with th desizhon which opozishon wuz apt to chaenj into obstinasy.

Mrs. March knew that expeeri’enss wuz an exselent teecher, and when it wuz posibl she left her children to lurn aloen th lesons which she wuud gladly hav maed eezyer, if thae had not objekted to taeking advice as much as thae did saults and senna.

"Verry wel, Amy; if yuur hart is set upon it, and U see yuur wae thru without too graet an outlae of muny, tiem, and temper, I'll sae no mor. Tauk it oever with th gurls, and whichever wae U desied, I'll do mi best to help U."

"Thanks, muther; U ar aulwaes so kiend;" and away went Amy to lae her plan befor her sisters.

Meg agreed at wunss, and promist her aed, gladly ofering anything she possessed, from her litl hous itself to her verry best sault-spoons. But Jo fround upon th hoel projekt, and wuud hav nuthing to do with it at furst.

"Whi in th wurld should U spend yuur muny, wury yuur family, and turn th hous upsied doun for a parsel of gurls hoo don't caer a sixpence for U? I thaut U had too much pride and senss to truckle to any mortal wuuman just because she waers French boots and rieds in a coupé," sed Jo, hoo, being called from th tragical cliemax of her novel, wuz not in th best mood for soeshal enterprises.

"I don't truckle, and I haet being patronized as much as U do!" returnd Amy indignantly, for th too still janggld when such qeschons aroez. "Th gurls do caer for me, and I for them, and thaer's a graet deel of kiendnes and senss and talent amung them, in spiet of whut U call fashonabl nonsenss. U don't caer to maek peepl liek U, to go into guud soesieety, and cultivaet yuur maners and taests. I do, and I meen to maek th moest of every chanss that cums. U can go thru th wurld with yuur elboes out and yuur noez in th aer, and call it independenss, if U liek. That's not mi wae."

When Amy wheted her tung and freed her miend she uezhualy got th best of it, for she seldom faeld to hav common senss on her 319 sied, whiel Jo carried her luv of liberty and haet of conventionalities to such an unlimited extent that she nacheraly found herself wuusted in an arguement. Amy's definishon of Jo's iedeea of independenss wuz such a guud hit that boeth burst out lafing, and th discushon tuuk a mor aemiabl turn. Much against her wil, Jo at length consented to sacrifiess a dae to Mrs. Grundy, and help her sister thru whut she regarded as "a nonsensikal business."

Th invitaeshons wer sent, neerly all accepted, and th foloeing Monday wuz set apart for th grand event. Hannah wuz out of huemor because her week's wurk wuz deraenjd, and prophesied that "ef th washin' and ironin' worn't dun reg'lar nothin' wuud go wel anywheres." This hich in th maenspring of th domestik masheenery had a bad efekt upon th hoel concern; but Amy's moto wuz "Nil desperandum," and having maed up her miend whut to do, she proceeded to do it in spiet of all obstakls. To begin with, Hannah's cuuking didn't turn out wel: th chiken wuz tough, th tung too sault, and th chocolat wouldn't froth properly. Then th caek and iess cost mor than Amy expected, so did th wagon; and vaerius uther expenses, which seemd trifling at th outset, counted up rather alarmingly afterward. Beth got coeld and tuuk to her bed, Meg had an uenuezhual number of callers to keep her at hoem, and Jo wuz in such a divided staet of miend that her breakages, accidents, and mistaeks wer uncomonly nuemerus, seerius, and trieing.

"If it hadn't been for muther I never should hav got thru," as Amy declaerd afterward, and graetfuly rememberd when "th best joek of th seezon" wuz entierly forgoten by everybody else.

If it wuz not faer on Monday, th yung laedys wer to cum on Tuesday,—an araenjment which aggravated Jo and Hannah to th last degree. On Monday morning th wether wuz in that undecided staet which is mor exasperaeting than a steady por. It drizzled a litl, shone a litl, blew a litl, and didn't maek up its miend till it wuz too laet for any wun else to maek up theirs. Amy wuz up at daun, husling peepl out of thaer beds and thru thaer breakfasts, that th hous miet be got in order. Th parlor struk her as luuking uncomonly shaby; but without stoping to sie for whut she had not, she skilfully maed th best of whut she had, araenjing chaers oever th 320 worn plaeses in th carpet, cuvering staens on th wauls with pikchers fraemd in ievy, and filing up empty corners with hoem-maed statuary, which gaev an artistik aer to th room, as did th luvly vaeses of flowers Jo scaterd about.

Th lunch luukt charmingly; and as she survaed it, she sincerely hoept it wuud taest wel, and that th borrowed glas, china, and silver wuud get saefly hoem again. Th carrejs wer promist, Meg and muther wer all redy to do th onors, Beth wuz aebl to help Hannah behind th seens, Jo had engaejd to be as lievly and aemiabl as an absent miend, an aeking hed, and a verry desieded disaprooval of everybody and everything wuud alow, and, as she weerily drest, Amy cheerd herself with antisipaeshons of th hapy moement, when, lunch saefly oever, she should driev away with her frends for an afternoon of artistik deliets; for th "cherry-bounss" and th broeken bridge wer her strong points.

Then caem too ours of suspenss, duuring which she viebraeted from parlor to porch, whiel public opinyon vaeryd liek th wethercok. A smart shower at eleven had evidently qencht th enthusiasm of th yung laedys hoo wer to arrive at twelve, for noebody caem; and at too th exausted family sat doun in a blaez of sunshine to consuem th perishable porshons of th feest, that nuthing miet be lost.

"No dout about th wether to-dae; thae wil surtenly cum, so we must fli round and be redy for them," sed Amy, as th sun woek her next morning. She spoek briskly, but in her seecret soel she wisht she had sed nuthing about Tuesday, for her interest, liek her caek, wuz geting a litl stael.

"I can't get any lobsters, so U wil hav to do without salad to-dae," sed Mr. March, cuming in haf an our laeter, with an expreshon of plasid despaer.

"Uez th chiken, then; th toughness wun't mater in a salad," advised his wief.

"Hannah left it on th kichen-taebl a mienuet, and th kitens got at it. I'm verry sorry, Amy," aded Beth, hoo wuz still a patroness of cats.

"Then I must hav a lobster, for tung aloen wun't do," sed Amy decidedly.

321 "Shal I rush into town and demand wun?" askt Jo, with th magnanimity of a marter.

"U'd cum bringing it hoem under yuur arm, without any paeper, just to tri me. I'll go mieself," anserd Amy, hoos temper wuz begining to fael.

Shrouded in a thik vael and armd with a jenteel travelling-basket, she departed, feeling that a cool driev wuud sooth her rufld spirit, and fit her for th laebors of th dae. After sum delae, th objekt of her dezier wuz procured, liekwiez a botl of dresing, to prevent further lost of tiem at hoem, and off she droev again, wel pleezd with her oen forthaut.

As th omnibus contained oenly wun uther pasenjer, a sleepy oeld laedy, Amy poketed her vael, and begield th teedium of th wae by trieing to fiend out whaer all her muny had gon to. So busy wuz she with her card fuul of refraktory figuers that she did not obzurv a nue-comer, hoo entered without stoping th veeikl, till a mascuelin vois sed, "Guud-morning, Mis March," and, luuking up, she beheld wun of Laurie's moest elegant colej frends. Furvently hoeping that he wuud get out befor she did, Amy utterly ignord th basket at her feet, and, congrachulaeting herself that she had on her nue travelling dres, returnd th yung man's greeting with her uezhual suavity and spirit.

Thae got on exselently; for Amy's cheef caer wuz soon set at rest by lurning that th jentlman wuud leev furst, and she wuz chating away in a peculiarly lofty straen, when th oeld laedy got out. In stumbling to th dor, she upset th basket, and—o, horror!—th lobster, in all its vulgar size and brilliancy, wuz reveeld to th hieborn ies of a Tudor.

"By Jove, she's forgoten her diner!" cried th unconshus yooth, poeking th scarlet monster into its plaess with his caen, and prepaering to hand out th basket after th oeld laedy.

"Pleez don't—it's—it's mien," murmerd Amy, with a faess neerly as red as her fish.

Please don't, it's mine

"O, reealy, I beg pardon; it's an uncomonly fien wun, isn't it?" sed Tudor, with graet presence of miend, and an aer of soeber interest that did credit to his breeding.

322 Amy recuverd herself in a breth, set her basket boeldly on th seet, and sed, lafing,—

"Don't U wish U wer to hav sum of th salad he's to maek, and to see th charming yung laedys hoo ar to eat it?"

Now that wuz takt, for too of th rooling foibls of th mascuelin miend wer tucht: th lobster wuz instantly serounded by a haelo of pleezing reminisenses, and cueriosity about "th charming yung laedys" divurted his miend from th comikal mis-hap.

"I supoez he'll laf and joek oever it with Laurie, but I sha'n't see them; that's a cumfort," thaut Amy, as Tudor bowd and departed.

She did not menshon this meeting at hoem (tho she discuverd that, thanks to th upset, her nue dres wuz much damejd by th rivulets of dresing that meanderd doun th scurt), but went thru with th preparaeshons which now seemd mor urksum than befor; and at twelve o'clok all wuz redy again. Feeling that th naebors wer interested in her moovments, she wisht to efaess th memory 323 of yesterdae's faeluer by a grand success to-dae; so she orderd th "cherry-bounss," and droev away in staet to meet and escort her guests to th banquet.

"Thaer's th rumbl, thae're cuming! I'll go into th porch to meet them; it luuks hospitabl, and I wont th puur chield to hav a guud tiem after all her trubl," sed Mrs. March, suiting th akshon to th wurd. But after wun glanss, she retierd, with an indescriebabl expreshon, for, luuking qiet lost in th big carrej, sat Amy and wun yung laedy.

"Run, Beth, and help Hannah cleer haf th things off th taebl; it wil be too absurd to put a lunchon for twelve befor a singgl gurl," cried Jo, hurying away to th loeer reejons, too exsieted to stop eeven for a laf.

In caem Amy, qiet calm, and delietfuly corjal to th wun guessed hoo had kept her promis; th rest of th family, being of a dramatik turn, plaed thaer parts equally wel, and Mis Eliott found them a moest hilaerius set; for it wuz imposibl to entierly controel th merriment which possessed them. Th remodelled lunch being gaely partaken of, th studio and garden vizited, and art discust with enthusiasm, Amy orderd a buging (alas for th elegant cherry-bounss!) and droev her frend qieetly about th naeborhuud till sunset, when "th party went out."

As she caem wauking in, luuking verry tierd, but as compoezd as ever, she obzurvd that every vestej of th unforchunat fête had disapeerd, exsept a suspishus puker about th corners of Jo's mouth.

"U've had a luvly afternoon for yuur driev, deer," sed her muther, as respektfuly as if th hoel twelve had cum.

"Mis Eliott is a verry sweet gurl, and seemd to enjoy herself, I thaut," obzurvd Beth, with uenuezhual warmth.

"Cuud U spaer me sum of yuur caek? I reealy need sum, I hav so much company, and I can't maek such delicious stuf as yuurs," askt Meg soeberly.

"Taek it all; I'm th oenly wun heer hoo lieks sweet things, and it wil mould befor I can dispoez of it," anserd Amy, thinking with a sie of th jenerus stor she had laed in for such an end as this.

324 "It's a pity Laurie isn't heer to help us," began Jo, as thae sat doun to iess-creem and salad for th second tiem in too daes.

A worning luuk from her muther chekt any further remarks, and th hoel family aet in heroeik silence, till Mr. March mieldly obzurvd, "Salad wuz wun of th faevorit dishes of th ancients, and Evelyn"—heer a jeneral exploezhon of lafter cut short th "history of sallets," to th graet serpriez of th lurnd jentlman.

"Bundle everything into a basket and send it to th Hummels: Germans liek meses. I'm sik of th siet of this; and thaer's no reezon U should all die of a surfeit because I've been a fool," cried Amy, wieping her ies.

"I thaut I should hav died when I saw U too gurls ratling about in th whut-U-call-it, liek too litl curnels in a verry big nutshel, and muther waeting in staet to reseev th throng," sighed Jo, qiet spent with lafter.

"I'm verry sorry U wer disapointed, deer, but we all did our best to satisfi U," sed Mrs. March, in a toen fuul of mutherly regret.

"I am satisfied; I've dun whut I undertuuk, and it's not mi fault that it faeld; I cumfort mieself with that," sed Amy, with a litl qiver in her vois. "I thank U all verry much for helping me, and I'll thank U still mor if U wun't alood to it for a munth, at leest."

No wun did for several munths; but th wurd "fête" aulwaes produced a jeneral smiel, and Laurie's burthdae gift to Amy wuz a tieny coral lobster in th shaep of a charm for her woch-gard.

Tail-piece

XXVII. Literaery Lesons.

325

Literary Lessons

XXVII.

Literaery Lesons.

Forchun sudenly smield upon Jo, and dropt a guud-luk peny in her path. Not a goelden peny, exaktly, but I dout if haf a milyon wuud hav given mor reeal hapynes than did th litl sum that caem to her in this wiez.

Every fue weeks she wuud shut herself up in her room, put on her scribling suit, and "faul into a vortex," as she exprest it, rieting away at her novel with all her hart and soel, for till that wuz finisht she cuud fiend no peess. Her "scribling suit" consisted of a blak woollen pinafore on which she cuud wiep her pen at wil, and a cap 326 of th saem mateerial, adornd with a cheerful red boe, into which she bundled her haer when th deks wer cleerd for akshon. This cap wuz a beecon to th inqiering ies of her family, hoo duuring thees periods kept thaer distanss, meerly poping in thaer heds semy-ocaezhonaly, to ask, with interest, "Duz jeenyus burn, Jo?" Thae did not aulwaes venture eeven to ask this qeschon, but tuuk an obzervaeshon of th cap, and jujd acordingly. If this expresiv artikl of dres wuz drawn loe upon th forhed, it wuz a sien that hard wurk wuz going on; in exsieting moements it wuz pushed raekishly askew; and when despaer seezd th author it wuz plukt hoely off, and cast upon th flor. At such times th introoder silently withdroo; and not until th red boe wuz seen gaely erekt upon th gifted brow, did any wun daer adres Jo.

She did not think herself a jeenyus by any means; but when th rieting fit caem on, she gaev herself up to it with entier abandon, and led a blissful lief, unconshus of wont, caer, or bad wether, whiel she sat saef and hapy in an imajinarry wurld, fuul of frends aulmoest as reeal and deer to her as any in th flesh. Sleep forsuuk her ies, meels stuud untasted, dae and niet wer all too short to enjoy th hapynes which blest her oenly at such times, and maed thees ours wurth living, eeven if thae bor no uther froot. Th divine afflatus uezhualy lasted a week or too, and then she emerged from her "vortex," hunggry, sleepy, cros, or despondent.

She wuz just recuvering from wun of thees attacks when she wuz prevaeld upon to escort Mis Crocker to a lecture, and in return for her vurchoo wuz reworded with a nue iedeea. It wuz a Peepl's Corss, th lecture on th Pyramids, and Jo rather wunderd at th chois of such a subjekt for such an audi’enss, but tuuk it for granted that sum graet soeshal eevil wuud be remedied or sum graet wont suplied by unfoelding th glorys of th Pharaohs to an audi’enss hoos thoughts wer busy with th priess of coel and flour, and hoos lievs wer spent in trieing to solv harder ridls than that of th Sfinx.

Thae wer eerly; and whiel Mis Crocker set th heel of her stoking, Jo amuezd herself by examining th faeses of th peepl hoo ocuepied th seet with them. On her left wer too maetrons, with masiv forheds, and bonnets to mach, discusing Wuuman's Riets 327 and maeking tating. Beyond sat a paer of humbl luvers, artlesly hoelding eech uther by th hand, a sombre spinster eating pepermints out of a paeper bag, and an oeld jentlman taeking his preparatory nap behind a yelo bandanna. On her riet, her oenly naebor wuz a stoodius-luuking lad absorbd in a nuezpaeper.

It wuz a piktorial sheet, and Jo examind th wurk of art neerest her, iedly wundering whut unfortuitous concatenation of surcumstanses needed th melodramatik ilustraeshon of an Indian in fuul wor costume, tumbling oever a precipice with a wuulf at his throet, whiel too infueriaeted yung jentlmen, with unnacheraly small feet and big ies, wer stabing eech uther cloez by, and a dishevelled feemael wuz flieing away in th bakground with her mouth wied oepen. Pausing to turn a paej, th lad saw her luuking, and, with boyish guud-naechuur, oferd haf his paeper, saeing bluntly, "Wont to red it? That's a furst-raet story."

Jo accepted it with a smiel, for she had never outgroen her lieking for lads, and soon found herself involvd in th uezhual laberinth of luv, mistery, and murder, for th story belongd to that clas of liet literachuur in which th pashons hav a holidae, and when th author's invenshon faels, a grand catastrofy cleers th staej of wun haf th dramatis pursonæ, leeving th uther haf to exult oever thaer dounfaul.

"Priem, isn't it?" askt th boy, as her ie went doun th last parragraf of her porshon.

"I think U and I cuud do as wel as that if we tried," returnd Jo, amuezd at his admeraeshon of th trash.

"I should think I wuz a prity luky chap if I cuud. She maeks a guud living out of such storys, thae sae;" and he pointed to th naem of Mrs. S. L. A. N. G. Northbury, under th tietl of th tael.

"Do U noe her?" askt Jo, with suden interest.

"No; but I red all her pieces, and I noe a felo hoo wurks in th ofis whaer this paeper is printing."

"Do U sae she maeks a guud living out of storys liek this?" and Jo luukt mor respektfuly at th ajitaeted groop and thikly-sprinkld exclamation-points that adornd th paej.

"Ges she duz! She noes just whut foeks liek, and gets paed wel for rieting it."

328 Heer th lecture began, but Jo hurd verry litl of it, for whiel Prof. Sands wuz prosing away about Belzoni, Cheops, scarabei, and hieroglifiks, she wuz covertly taeking doun th adres of th paeper, and boeldly rezolving to tri for th hundred-dolar priez oferd in its columns for a sensaeshonal story. By th tiem th lecture ended and th audi’enss awoke, she had bilt up a splendid forchun for herself (not th furst founded upon paeper), and wuz aulredy deep in th concoction of her story, being unaebl to desied whether th dueel should cum befor th eloepment or after th murder.

She sed nuthing of her plan at hoem, but fel to wurk next dae, much to th disquiet of her muther, hoo aulwaes luukt a litl anxious when "jeenyus tuuk to burning." Jo had never tried this stiel befor, contenting herself with verry mield roemanses for th "Spred Eegl." Her theatrikal expeeri’enss and miselaenius reeding wer of survis now, for thae gaev her sum iedeea of dramatik efekt, and suplied plot, langgwej, and costumes. Her story wuz as fuul of desperaeshon and despaer as her limited aqaentanss with thoes uncumfortabl emotions enaebld her to maek it, and, having loecaeted it in Lisbon, she woond up with an urthqaek, as a strieking and aproepriat dénouement. Th manuescript wuz privately despacht, accompanied by a noet, modestly saeing that if th tael didn't get th priez, which th rieter hardly dared expect, she wuud be verry glad to reseev any sum it miet be considerd wurth.

A check for one hundred dollars

Six weeks is a long tiem to waet, and a still longer tiem for a gurl to keep a seecret; but Jo did boeth, and wuz just begining to giv up all hoep of ever seeing her manuescript again, when a leter arrived which aulmoest tuuk her breth away; for on oepening it, a chek for a hundred dolars fel into her lap. For a mienuet she staerd at it as if it had been a snaek, then she red her leter and began to cri. If th aemiabl jentlman hoo roet that kiendly noet cuud hav noen whut intenss hapynes he wuz giving a felo-creecher, I think he wuud devoet his leezher ours, if he has any, to that amuezment; for Jo valued th leter mor than th muny, because it wuz encurejing; and after yeers of efort it wuz so plezant to fiend that she had lurnd to do sumthing, tho it wuz oenly to riet a sensaeshon story.

A prouder yung wuuman wuz seldom seen than she, when, having 329 compoezd herself, she electrified th family by apeering befor them with th leter in wun hand, th chek in th uther, anounsing that she had wun th priez. Of corss thaer wuz a graet jubilee, and when th story caem every wun red and praezd it; tho after her faather had toeld her that th langgwej wuz guud, th roemanss fresh and harty, and th trajedy qiet thriling, he shuuk his hed, and sed in his unwurldly wae,—

"U can do beter than this, Jo. Aem at th hieest, and never miend th muny."

"I think th muny is th best part of it. Whut wil U do with such a forchun?" askt Amy, regarding th majik slip of paeper with a reverenshal ie.

"Send Beth and muther to th seesied for a munth or too," anserd Jo promptly.

"O, how splendid! No, I can't do it, deer, it wuud be so selfish," cried Beth, hoo had clapt her thin hands, and taeken a long breth, as if piening for fresh oeshan-breezes; then stopt herself, and moeshond away th chek which her sister waevd befor her.

"Ah, but U shal go, I've set mi hart on it; that's whut I tried for, and that's whi I succeeded. I never get on when I think of mieself aloen, so it wil help me to wurk for U, don't U see? Besieds, Marmee needs th chaenj, and she wun't leev U, so U must go. Wun't it be fun to see U cum hoem plump and roezy again? Hooraa for Dr. Jo, hoo aulwaes cuers her paeshents!"

To th see sied thae went, after much discushon; and tho Beth didn't cum hoem as plump and roezy as cuud be dezierd, she wuz 330 much beter, whiel Mrs. March declaerd she felt ten yeers yungger; so Jo wuz satisfied with th investment of her priez muny, and fel to wurk with a cheery spirit, bent on urning mor of thoes delietful cheks. She did urn several that yeer, and began to feel herself a power in th hous; for by th majik of a pen, her "rubish" turnd into cumforts for them all. "Th Duek's Dauter" paed th butcher's bil, "A Fantom Hand" put doun a nue carpet, and th "Curss of th Coventrys" proovd th blesing of th Marches in th wae of groeserys and gouns.

Welth is surtenly a moest dezierabl thing, but poverty has its suny sied, and wun of th sweet uezes of advursity is th jenuein satisfakshon which cums from harty wurk of hed or hand; and to th inspiraeshon of nesesity, we oe haf th wiez, buetiful, and uesful blessings of th wurld. Jo enjoyd a taest of this satisfakshon, and seest to envy richer gurls, taeking graet cumfort in th nolej that she cuud suplie her oen wonts, and need ask no wun for a peny.

Litl noetis wuz taeken of her storys, but thae found a market; and, encurejd by this fakt, she rezolvd to maek a boeld stroek for faem and forchun. Having copyd her novel for th foerth tiem, red it to all her confidenshal frends, and submitted it with feer and trembling to three publishers, she at last dispoezd of it, on condishon that she wuud cut it doun wun thurd, and oemit all th parts which she particularly admierd.

"Now I must eether bundle it bak into mi tin-kichen to mould, pae for printing it mieself, or chop it up to suit purchasers, and get whut I can for it. Faem is a verry guud thing to hav in th hous, but cash is mor convenient; so I wish to taek th senss of th meeting on this important subjekt," sed Jo, calling a family council.

"Don't spoil yuur book, mi gurl, for thaer is mor in it than U noe, and th iedeea is wel wurkt out. Let it waet and riepen," wuz her faather's advice; and he practised as he preecht, having waeted paeshently thurty yeers for froot of his oen to riepen, and being in no haest to gather it, eeven now, when it wuz sweet and melo.

"It seems to me that Jo wil profit mor by maeking th trieal than by waeting," sed Mrs. March. "Critisizm is th best test of such wurk, for it wil sho her boeth unsuspekted merits and faults, and help her to do beter next tiem. We ar too partial; but th praez and 331 blaem of outsieders wil proov uesful, eeven if she gets but litl muny."

"Yes," sed Jo, niting her brows, "that's just it; I've been fusing oever th thing so long, I reealy don't noe whether it's guud, bad, or indiferent. It wil be a graet help to hav cool, imparshal pursons taek a luuk at it, and tel me whut thae think of it."

"I wouldn't leev out a wurd of it; U'll spoil it if U do, for th interest of th story is mor in th miends than in th akshons of th peepl, and it wil be all a mudl if U don't explaen as U go on," sed Meg, hoo furmly beleevd that this book wuz th moest remarkabl novel ever riten.

"But Mr. Allen sez, 'Leev out th explanaeshons, maek it brief and dramatik, and let th carrakters tel th story,'" interupted Jo, turning to th publisher's noet.

"Do as he tels U; he noes whut wil sel, and we don't. Maek a guud, popuelar book, and get as much muny as U can. By and by, when, U've got a naem, U can afford to diegres, and hav philosophical and metafizikal peepl in yuur novels," sed Amy, hoo tuuk a striktly praktikal vue of th subjekt.

"Wel," sed Jo, lafing, "if mi peepl ar 'philosophical and metafizikal,' it isn't mi fault, for I noe nuthing about such things, exsept whut I heer faather sae, sumtiems. If I've got sum of his wiez iedeeas jumbld up with mi roemanss, so much th beter for me. Now, Beth, whut do U sae?"

"I should so liek to see it printing soon," wuz all Beth sed, and smield in saeing it; but thaer wuz an unconshus emfasis on th last wurd, and a wistful luuk in th ies that never lost thaer chieldliek candor, which child Jo's hart, for a mienuet, with a forboeding feer, and desieded her to maek her litl venture "soon."

So, with Spartan furmnes, th yung authoress laed her furst-born on her taebl, and chopt it up as roothlesly as any oeger. In th hoep of pleezing every wun, she tuuk every wun's advice; and, liek th oeld man and his donky in th faebl, suited noebody.

Her faather liked th metafizikal streek which had unconshusly got into it; so that wuz alowd to remaen, tho she had her doubts about it. Her muther thaut that thaer wuz a trifle too much 332 descripshon; out, thaerfor, it neerly all caem, and with it meny nesesaery links in th story. Meg admierd th trajedy; so Jo pield up th agony to suit her, whiel Amy objekted to th fun, and, with th best intenshons in lief, Jo qencht th sprietly seens which releevd th sombre carrakter of th story. Then, to complete th rooin, she cut it doun wun thurd, and confidingly sent th puur litl roemanss, liek a pikt robin, out into th big, busy wurld, to tri its faet.

Wel, it wuz printing, and she got three hundred dolars for it; liekwiez plenty of praez and blaem, boeth so much graeter than she expected that she wuz throen into a staet of bewilderment, from which it tuuk her sum tiem to recuver.

"U sed, muther, that critisizm wuud help me; but how can it, when it's so contradictory that I don't noe whether I've riten a promising book or broeken all th ten commandments?" cried puur Jo, turning oever a heep of noetises, th perusal of which fild her with pride and joy wun mienuet, rath and dier dismae th next. "This man sez 'An exqizit book, fuul of trooth, buety, and urnestly; all is sweet, puer, and helthy,'" continued th perplexed authoress. "Th next, 'Th theeory of th book is bad, fuul of morbid fansys, spiritualistic iedeeas, and unnacheral carrakters.' Now, as I had no theeory of any kiend, don't beleev in Spirichualizm, and copyd mi carrakters from lief, I don't see how this critik can be riet. Anuther sez, 'It's wun of th best American novels which has apeerd for yeers' (I noe beter than that); and th next asserts that 'tho it is orijinal, and riten with graet forss and feeling, it is a daenjerus book.' 'Tisn't! Sum maek fun of it, sum oever-praez, and neerly all insist that I had a deep theeory to expound, when I oenly roet it for th plezher and th muny. I wish I'd printing it hoel or not at all, for I do haet to be so misjujd."

Her family and frends administerd cumfort and comendaeshon liberaly; yet it wuz a hard tiem for sensitive, hie-spirited Jo, hoo ment so wel, and had apparently dun so il. But it did her guud, for thoes hoos opinyon had reeal value gaev her th critisizm which is an author's best ejucaeshon; and when th furst sornes wuz oever, she cuud laf at her puur litl book, yet beleev in it still, and feel herself th wiezer and strongger for th buffeting she had reseevd.

333 "Not being a jeenyus, liek Keats, it wun't kil me," she sed stoutly; "and I've got th joek on mi sied, after all; for th parts that wer taeken straet out of reeal lief ar denounst as imposibl and absurd, and th seens that I maed up out of mi oen sily hed ar pronounced 'charmingly nacheral, tender, and troo.' So I'll cumfort mieself with that; and when I'm redy, I'll up again and taek anuther."

Tail-piece

XXVIII. Domestik Expeeri’enses.

334

Domestic Experiences

XXVIII.

Domestik Expeeri’enses.

Liek moest uther yung maetrons, Meg began her marryd lief with th deturminaeshon to be a model houskeeper. John should fiend hoem a paradise; he should aulwaes see a smieling faess, should faer sumptuously every dae, and never noe th lost of a buton. She brought so much luv, enerjy, and cheerfulnes to th wurk that she cuud not but succeed, in spiet of sum obstakls. Her paradise wuz not a tranquil wun; for th litl wuuman fust, wuz oever-anxious to pleez, and busld about liek a troo Martha, cumbered with meny caers. She wuz too tierd, sumtiems, eeven to smiel; John groo dispeptik after a corss of dainty dishes, and ungraetfuly demanded plaen faer. As for butons, she soon lurnd to wunder whaer thae went, to shaek her hed oever th carelessness of men, and to threten to maek him soe them on himself, and then see if his wurk wuud stand impaeshent tugs and clumzy finggers any beter than hers.

Thae wer verry hapy, eeven after thae discuverd that thae couldn't liv on luv aloen. John did not fiend Meg's buety diminisht, tho she beemd at him from behind th familyar cofy-pot; nor did Meg 335 mis any of th roemanss from th daily parting, when her huzband foloed up his kis with th tender inqiery, "Shal I send hoem veel or muton for diner, darling?" Th litl hous seest to be a glorified bower, but it becaem a hoem, and th yung cupl soon felt that it wuz a chaenj for th beter. At furst thae plaed keep-hous, and frolikt oever it liek children; then John tuuk steadily to business, feeling th caers of th hed of a family upon his shoulders; and Meg laed by her cambric rapers, put on a big apron, and fel to wurk, as befor sed, with mor enerjy than discreshon.

Whiel th cuuking maenia lasted she went thru Mrs. Cornelius's Reseet Book as if it wer a mathematikal exercise, wurking out th problems with paeshenss and caer. Sumtiems her family wer invieted in to help eat up a too bounteous feest of successes, or Lotty wuud be privately despacht with a bach of faeluers, which wer to be concealed from all ies in th convenient stumaks of th litl Hummels. An evening with John oever th account-books uezhualy produced a temporaery lul in th cuelinarry enthusiasm, and a froogal fit wuud ensue, duuring which th puur man wuz put thru a corss of bred-puuding, hash, and wormd-oever cofy, which tried his soel, aultho he bor it with praiseworthy fortitued. Befor th goelden meen wuz found, however, Meg aded to her domestik possessions whut yung cupls seldom get on long without,—a family jar.

Fierd with a housewifely wish to see her stor-room stocked with hoem-maed prezurvs, she undertuuk to put up her oen curant jely. John wuz reqested to order hoem a duzen or so of litl pots, and an extra qontity of sugar, for thaer oen curants wer riep, and wer to be atended to at wunss. As John furmly beleevd that "mi wief" wuz equal to anything, and tuuk a nacheral pride in her skil, he rezolvd that she should be gratified, and thaer oenly crop of froot laed by in a moest pleezing form for winter uez. Hoem caem foer duzen delietful litl pots, haf a barrel of sugar, and a small boy to pik th curants for her. With her prity haer tukt into a litl cap, arms bared to th elbo, and a chekt apron which had a coquettish luuk in spiet of th bib, th yung houswief fel to wurk, feeling no doubts about her success; for hadn't she seen Hannah do it hundreds of times? Th arae of pots rather amaezd her at furst, but John wuz so 336 fond of jely, and th niess litl jars wuud luuk so wel on th top shelf, that Meg rezolvd to fil them all, and spent a long dae piking, boiling, straening, and fusing oever her jely. She did her best; she askt advice of Mrs. Cornelius; she rakt her braen to remember whut Hannah did that she had left undun; she reboiled, resugared, and restraend, but that dredful stuf wouldn't "jel."

She longed to run hoem, bib and all, and ask muther to lend a hand, but John and she had agreed that thae wuud never anoy any wun with thaer private wurys, experriments, or qorrels. Thae had laft oever that last wurd as if th iedeea it sugjested wuz a moest preposterous wun; but thae had held to thaer rezolv, and whenever thae cuud get on without help thae did so, and no wun interfeerd, for Mrs. March had advised th plan. So Meg resld aloen with th refraktory sweetmeats all that hot sumer dae, and at fiev o'clok sat doun in her topsy-turvy kichen, wrung her bedaubed hands, lifted up her vois and wept.

Now, in th furst flush of th nue lief, she had ofen sed,—

"Mi huzband shal aulwaes feel free to bring a frend hoem whenever he lieks. I shal aulwaes be prepaerd; thaer shal be no flury, no scoelding, no discumfort, but a neet hous, a cheerful wief, and a guud diner. John, deer, never stop to ask mi leev, inviet hoom U pleez, and be shuur of a welcum from me."

How charming that wuz, to be shuur! John qiet gloed with pride to heer her sae it, and felt whut a blest thing it wuz to hav a superior wief. But, aultho thae had had company from tiem to tiem, it never happened to be unexpekted, and Meg had never had an oportuenity to distingwish herself till now. It aulwaes happens so in this vael of teers; thaer is an inevitability about such things which we can oenly wunder at, deplor, and baer as we best can.

If John had not forgoten all about th jely, it reealy wuud hav been unpardonable in him to chooz that dae, of all th daes in th yeer, to bring a frend hoem to diner unexpectedly. Congrachulaeting himself that a handsum repast had been orderd that morning, feeling shuur that it wuud be redy to th mienuet, and induljing in plezant antisipaeshons of th charming efekt it wuud produce, when his prity wief caem runing out to meet him, he escorted his frend 337 to his manshon, with th irepresibl satisfakshon of a yung hoest and huzband.

It is a wurld of disappointments, as John discuverd when he reached th Duv-cote. Th frunt dor uezhualy stuud hospitably oepen; now it wuz not oenly shut, but locked, and yesterdae's mud still adornd th steps. Th parlor-windoes wer cloezd and curtend, no pikcher of th prity wief soeing on th piazza, in whiet, with a distracting litl boe in her haer, or a briet-ied hoestes, smieling a shi welcum as she greeted her guessed. Nuthing of th sort, for not a soel apeerd, but a sanggwinaery-luuking boy asleep under th curant-bushes.

"I'm afraed sumthing has happened. Step into th garden, Scott, whiel I luuk up Mrs. Brooke," sed John, alarmd at th silence and solitued.

Round th hous he huryd, led by a pungent smel of burnt sugar, and Mr. Scott stroeld after him, with a qeer luuk on his faess. He paused discreetly at a distanss when Brooke disapeerd; but he cuud boeth see and heer, and, being a bachelors, enjoyd th prospekt mietily.

In th kichen raend confuezhon and despaer; wun edishon of jely wuz trikld from pot to pot, anuther lae upon th flor, and a thurd wuz burning gaely on th stoev. Lotty, with Teutonic flem, wuz calmly eating bred and curant wien, for th jely wuz still in a hoeplesly liqid staet, whiel Mrs. Brooke, with her apron oever her hed, sat sobing dizmaly.

"Mi deerest gurl, whut is th mater?" cried John, rushing in, with auful vizhons of scaulded hands, suden nues of aflikshon, and seecret consternaeshon at th thaut of th guessed in th garden.

"O John, I am so tierd and hot and cros and wuryd! I've been at it till I'm all worn out. Do cum and help me or I shal die!" and th exausted houswief cast herself upon his breast, giving him a sweet welcum in every senss of th wurd, for her pinafore had been baptiezd at th saem tiem as th flor.

"Whut wurys U, deer? Has anything dredful happened?" askt th anxious John, tenderly kissing th croun of th litl cap, which wuz all askew.

338 "Yes," sobd Meg despaeringly.

"Tel me qik, then. Don't cri, I can baer anything beter than that. Out with it, luv."

"Th—th jely wun't jel and I don't noe whut to do!"

John Brooke laft then as he never dared to laf afterward; and th derizhons Scott smield involuntarrily as he hurd th harty peel, which put th finishing stroek to puur Meg's wo.

"Is that all? Fling it out of windo, and don't bother any mor about it. I'll bie U qorts if U wont it; but for heven's saek don't hav histerriks, for I've brought Jak Scott hoem to diner, and—"

John got no further, for Meg cast him off, and clasped her hands with a trajik jescher as she fel into a chaer, exclaeming in a toen of minggld indignaeshon, reproech, and dismae,—

"A man to diner, and everything in a mes! John Brooke, how cuud U do such a thing?"

"Hush, he's in th garden! I forgot th confounded jely, but it can't be helpt now," sed John, survaeing th prospekt with an anxious ie.

"U aut to hav sent wurd, or toeld me this morning, and U aut to hav rememberd how busy I wuz," continued Meg petulantly; for eeven turtle-duvs wil peck when rufld.

"I didn't noe it this morning, and thaer wuz no tiem to send wurd, for I met him on th wae out. I never thaut of asking leev, when U hav aulwaes toeld me to do as I liked. I never tried it befor, and hang me if I ever do again!" aded John, with an aggrieved aer.

"I should hoep not! Taek him away at wunss; I can't see him, and thaer isn't any diner."

"Wel, I liek that! Whaer's th beef and vejetabls I sent hoem, and th puuding U promist?" cried John, rushing to th larder.

"I hadn't tiem to cuuk anything; I ment to dien at muther's. I'm sorry, but I wuz so busy;" and Meg's teers began again.

John wuz a mield man, but he wuz hueman; and after a long dae's wurk, to cum hoem tierd, hunggry, and hoepful, to fiend a caeotik hous, an empty taebl, and a cros wief wuz not exaktly conducive to 339 repoez of miend or maner. He restraend himself, however, and th litl squall wuud hav bloen oever, but for wun unluky wurd.

"It's a scraep, I aknolej; but if U wil lend a hand, we'll puul thru, and hav a guud tiem yet. Don't cri, deer, but just exert yuurself a bit, and nok us up sumthing to eat. We're boeth as hunggry as hunters, so we sha'n't miend whut it is. Giv us th coeld meet, and bred and cheez; we wun't ask for jely."

He ment it for a guud-naecherd joek; but that wun wurd seeld his faet. Meg thaut it wuz too crooel to hint about her sad faeluer, and th last atom of paeshenss vanisht as he spoek.

"U must get yuurself out of th scraep as U can; I'm too uezd up to 'exert' mieself for any wun. It's liek a man to propoez a boen and vulgar bred and cheez for company. I wun't hav anything of th sort in mi hous. Taek that Scott up to muther's, and tel him I'm away, sik, ded,—anything. I wun't see him, and U too can laf at me and mi jely as much as U liek: U wun't hav anything else heer;" and having deliverd her defieanss all in wun breth, Meg cast away her pinafore, and precipitately left th feeld to bemoan herself in her oen room.

Whut thoes too creechers did in her absence, she never knew; but Mr. Scott wuz not taeken "up to muther's," and when Meg desended, after thae had stroeld away together, she found traeses of a promiscuous lunch which fild her with horror. Lotty reported that thae had eeten "a much, and graetly laft, and th master bid her thro away all th sweet stuf, and hied th pots."

Meg longed to go and tel muther; but a senss of shaem at her oen short-comings, of loyalty to John, "hoo miet be crooel, but noebody should noe it," restraend her; and after a summary cleering up, she drest herself pritily, and sat doun to waet for John to cum and be forgiven.

Unforchunatly, John didn't cum, not seeing th mater in that liet. He had carried it off as a guud joek with Scott, excuezd his litl wief as wel as he cuud, and plaed th hoest so hospitably that his frend enjoyd th impromptoo diner, and promist to cum again. But John wuz anggry, tho he did not sho it; he felt that Meg had got him into a scraep, and then dezurted him in his our of 340 need. "It wasn't faer to tel a man to bring foeks hoem any tiem, with perfect freedom, and when he tuuk U at yuur wurd, to flaem up and blaem him, and leev him in th lurch, to be laft at or pityd. No, by George, it wasn't! and Meg must noe it." He had fumed inwardly duuring th feest, but when th flury wuz oever, and he stroeld hoem, after seeing Scott off, a mielder mood caem oever him. "Puur litl thing! it wuz hard upon her when she tried so hartily to pleez me. She wuz rong, of corss, but then she wuz yung. I must be paeshent and teech her." He hoept she had not gon hoem—he haeted gosip and interfeerenss. For a mienuet he wuz rufld again at th meer thaut of it; and then th feer that Meg wuud cri herself sik sofend his hart, and sent him on at a qiker paess, rezolving to be calm and kiend, but furm, qiet furm, and sho her whaer she had faeld in her duty to her spouse.

Meg liekwiez rezolvd to be "calm and kiend, but furm," and sho him his duty. She longed to run to meet him, and beg pardon, and be kist and cumforted, as she wuz shuur of being; but, of corss, she did nuthing of th sort, and when she saw John cuming, began to hum qiet nacheraly, as she rokt and soed, liek a laedy of leezher in her best parlor.

John wuz a litl disapointed not to fiend a tender Niobe; but, feeling that his dignity demanded th furst apolojy, he maed nun, oenly caem leezherly in, and laed himself upon th soefa, with th singularly relevant remark,—

"We ar going to hav a nue moon, mi deer."

"I've no objekshon," wuz Meg's equally soothing remark.

A fue uther topiks of jeneral interest wer introduest by Mr. Brooke, and wet-blanketed by Mrs. Brooke, and conversation langgwisht. John went to wun windo, unfoelded his paeper, and rapt himself in it, figerativly speeking. Meg went to th uther windo, and soed as if nue roezets for her slipers wer amung th nesesaerys of lief. Neether spoek; boeth luukt qiet "calm and furm," and boeth felt desperatly uncumfortabl.

Both felt desperately uncomfortable

"O deer," thaut Meg, "marryd lief is verry trieing, and duz need infinit paeshenss, as wel as luv, as muther sez." Th wurd "muther" sugjested uther maturnal counsels, given long ago, and reseevd with unbeleeving proetests.

341 "John is a guud man, but he has his faults, and U must lurn to see and baer with them, remembering yuur oen. He is verry desieded, but never wil be obstinet, if U reezon kiendly, not opoez impaeshently. He is verry accurate, and particular about th trooth—a guud traet, tho U call him 'fusy.' Never deseev him by luuk or wurd, Meg, and he wil giv U th confidenss U dezurv, th suport U need. He has a temper, not liek ours,—wun flash, and then all oever,—but th whiet, still angger, that is seldom sturd, but wunss kindld, is hard to qench. Be careful, verry careful, not to waek this angger against yuurself, for peess and hapynes depend on keeping his respekt. Woch yuurself, be th furst to ask pardon if U boeth err, and gard against th litl piques, misunderstandings, and hasty wurds that ofen pave th wae for biter sorro and regret."

Thees wurds caem bak to Meg, as she sat soeing in th sunset, especially th last. This wuz th furst seerius disagreement; her oen hasty speeches sounded boeth sily and unkiend, as she recauld them, her oen angger luukt chieldish now, and thoughts of puur John cuming 342 hoem to such a seen qiet melted her hart. She glanst at him with teers in her ies, but he did not see them; she put doun her wurk and got up, thinking, "I wil be th furst to sae, 'Forgiv me,'" but he did not seem to heer her; she went verry sloely acros th room, for pride wuz hard to swallow, and stuud by him, but he did not turn his hed. For a mienuet she felt as if she reealy couldn't do it; then caem th thaut, "This is th begining, I'll do mi part, and hav nuthing to reproech mieself with," and stooping doun, she softly kist her huzband on th forhed. Of corss that setld it; th penitent kis wuz beter than a wurld of wurds, and John had her on his nee in a mienuet, saeing tenderly,—

"It wuz too bad to laf at th puur litl jely-pots. Forgiv me, deer, I never wil again!"

But he did, o bles U, yes, hundreds of times, and so did Meg, boeth declaering that it wuz th sweetest jely thae ever maed; for family peess wuz prezurvd in that litl family jar.

After this, Meg had Mr. Scott to diner by speshal invitaeshon, and survd him up a plezant feest without a cuukt wief for th furst corss; on which ocaezhon she wuz so gae and graeshus, and maed everything go off so charmingly, that Mr. Scott toeld John he wuz a hapy felo, and shuuk his hed oever th hardships of bachelorhood all th wae hoem.

In th autumn, nue trieals and expeeri’enses caem to Meg. Sallie Moffat renued her frendship, wuz aulwaes runing out for a dish of gosip at th litl hous, or invieting "that puur deer" to cum in and spend th dae at th big hous. It wuz plezant, for in dul wether Meg ofen felt loenly; all wer busy at hoem, John absent till niet, and nuthing to do but soe, or red, or potter about. So it nacheraly fel out that Meg got into th wae of gading and gosiping with her frend. Seeing Sallie's prity things maed her long for such, and pity herself because she had not got them. Sallie wuz verry kiend, and ofen oferd her th cuveted trifles; but Meg decliend them, noeing that John wouldn't liek it; and then this foolish litl wuuman went and did whut John disliekt infinitly wurss.

She knew her huzband's incum, and she luvd to feel that he trusted her, not oenly with his hapynes, but whut sum men seem to 343 value mor,—his muny. She knew whaer it wuz, wuz free to taek whut she liked, and all he askt wuz that she should keep account of every peny, pae bils wunss a munth, and remember that she wuz a puur man's wief. Till now, she had dun wel, been proodent and exakt, kept her litl account-books neetly, and shoed them to him munthly without feer. But that autumn th surpent got into Meg's paradise, and tempted her, liek meny a modern Eve, not with apples, but with dres. Meg didn't liek to be pityd and maed to feel puur; it iritaeted her, but she wuz ashamed to confes it, and now and then she tried to consoel herself by buying sumthing prity, so that Sallie needn't think she had to economiez. She aulwaes felt wiked after it, for th prity things wer seldom nesesaerys; but then thae cost so litl, it wasn't wurth wurying about; so th trifles increest unconshusly, and in th shoping excursions she wuz no longer a passive luuker-on.

But th trifles cost mor than wun wuud imajin; and when she cast up her accounts at th end of th munth, th sum toetal rather scaerd her. John wuz busy that munth, and left th bils to her; th next munth he wuz absent; but th thurd he had a grand qorterly setling up, and Meg never forgot it. A fue daes befor she had dun a dredful thing, and it waed upon her conshenss. Sallie had been buying silks, and Meg longed for a nue wun,—just a handsum liet wun for partys, her blak silk wuz so common, and thin things for evening waer wer oenly proper for gurls. Ant March uezhualy gaev th sisters a prezent of twenty-fiev dolars apeess at Nue Yeer; that wuz oenly a munth to waet, and heer wuz a luvly vieolet silk going at a bargan, and she had th muny, if she oenly dared to taek it. John aulwaes sed whut wuz his wuz hers; but wuud he think it riet to spend not oenly th prospektiv fiev-and-twenty, but anuther fiev-and-twenty out of th hous-hoeld fund? That wuz th qeschon. Sallie had urjd her to do it, had oferd to loen th muny, and with th best intenshons in lief, had tempted Meg beyond her strength. In an eevil moement th shopman held up th luvly, shimering foelds, and sed, "A bargan, I ashuur U, maa'am." She anserd, "I'll taek it;" and it wuz cut off and paed for, and Sallie had exulted, and she had laft as if it wer a thing of no consequence, and driven away, 344 feeling as if she had stoelen sumthing, and th poleess wer after her.

A bargain, I assure you, ma'am

When she got hoem, she tried to assuage th pangs of remorss by spreding forth th luvly silk; but it luukt les silvery now, didn't becum her, after all, and th wurds "fifty dolars" seemd stampt liek a patern doun eech bredth. She put it away; but it haunted her, not delietfuly, as a nue dres should, but dredfuly, liek th goest of a foly that wuz not eezily laed. When John got out his books that niet, Meg's hart sank, and for th furst tiem in her marryd lief, she wuz afraed of her huzband. Th kiend, broun ies luukt as if thae cuud be sturn; and tho he wuz unuezhualy merry, she fansyd he had found her out, but didn't meen to let her noe it. Th hous-bils wer all paed, th books all in order. John had praezd her, and wuz undoing th oeld poket-book which thae called th "bank," when Meg, noeing that it wuz qiet empty, stopt his hand, saeing nurvusly,—

"U haeven't seen mi private expense book yet."

John never askt to see it; but she aulwaes insisted on his dooing so, and uezd to enjoy his mascuelin amaezment at th qeer things wimen 345 wontedw, and maed him ges whut "pieping" wuz, demand feersly th meening of a "hug-me-tight," or wunder how a litl thing compoezd of three roezbuds, a bit of velvet, and a paer of strings, cuud posibly be a bonnet, and cost fiev or six dolars. That niet he luukt as if he wuud liek th fun of qizing her figuers and pretending to be horrified at her extravagance, as he ofen did, being particularly proud of his proodent wief.

Th litl book wuz brought sloely out, and laed doun befor him. Meg got behind his chaer under preetenss of smoothing th rinkls out of his tierd forhed, and standing thaer, she sed, with her panik increesing with every wurd,—

"John, deer, I'm ashamed to sho U mi book, for I've reealy been dredfuly extravagant laetly. I go about so much I must hav things, U noe, and Sallie advised mi geting it, so I did; and mi Nue-Yeer's muny wil partly pae for it: but I wuz sorry after I'd dun it, for I knew U'd think it rong in me."

John laft, and droo her round besied him, saeing guud-huemordly, "Don't go and hied. I wun't beet U if U hav got a paer of kiling boots; I'm rather proud of mi wief's feet, and don't miend if she duz pae aet or nien dolars for her boots, if thae ar guud wuns."

That had been wun of her last "trifles," and John's ie had faulen on it as he spoek. "O, whut wil he sae when he cums to that auful fifty dolars!" thaut Meg, with a shiver.

"It's wurss than boots, it's a silk dres," she sed, with th calmness of desperaeshon, for she wontedw th wurst oever.

"Wel, deer, whut is th 'dem'd toetal,' as Mr. Mantalini sez?"

That didn't sound liek John, and she knew he wuz luuking up at her with th straetforward luuk that she had aulwaes been redy to meet and anser with wun as frank till now. She turnd th paej and her hed at th saem tiem, pointing to th sum which wuud hav been bad enough without th fifty, but which wuz apauling to her with that aded. For a mienuet th room wuz verry still; then John sed sloely,—but she cuud feel it cost him an efort to expres no displeasure,—

"Wel, I don't noe that fifty is much for a dres, with all th furbelows and noeshons U hav to hav to finish it off thees daes."

346 "It isn't maed or trimmed," sighed Meg faently, for a suden recolekshon of th cost still to be incurd qiet oeverwhelmd her.

"Twenty-fiev yards of silk seems a guud deel to cuver wun small wuuman, but I've no dout mi wief wil luuk as fien as Ned Moffat's when she gets it on," sed John driely.

"I noe U ar anggry, John, but I can't help it. I don't meen to waest yuur muny, and I didn't think thoes litl things wuud count up so. I can't rezist them when I see Sallie buying all she wonts, and pitying me because I don't. I tri to be contented, but it is hard, and I'm tierd of being puur."

Th last wurds wer spoeken so loe she thaut he did not heer them, but he did, and thae woonded him deeply, for he had denied himself meny plezhers for Meg's saek. She cuud hav bitten her tung out th mienuet she had sed it, for John pushed th books away, and got up, saeing, with a litl qiver in his vois, "I wuz afraed of this; I do mi best, Meg." If he had scoelded her, or eeven shaeken her, it wuud not hav broeken her hart liek thoes fue wurds. She ran to him and held him cloez, crieing, with repentant teers, "O John, mi deer, kiend, hard-wurking boy, I didn't meen it! It wuz so wiked, so untroo and ungraetful, how cuud I sae it! O, how cuud I sae it!"

He wuz verry kiend, forgaev her redily, and did not uter wun reproech; but Meg knew that she had dun and sed a thing which wuud not be forgoten soon, aultho he miet never alood to it again. She had promist to luv him for beter for wurss; and then she, his wief, had reproecht him with his poverty, after spending his urnestly rekles. It wuz dredful; and th wurst of it wuz John went on so qieetly afterward, just as if nuthing had happened, exsept that he staed in town laeter, and wurkt at niet when she had gon to cri herself to sleep. A week of remorss neerly maed Meg sik; and th discuvery that John had countermanded th order for his nue graet-coet reduest her to a staet of despaer which wuz pathetik to behoeld. He had simply sed, in anser to her serpriezd inqierys as to th chaenj, "I can't afford it, mi deer."

Meg sed no mor, but a fue minits after he found her in th haul, with her faess berryd in th oeld graet-coet, crieing as if her hart wuud braek.

347 Thae had a long tauk that niet, and Meg lurnd to luv her huzband beter for his poverty, because it seemd to hav maed a man of him, given him th strength and curej to fiet his oen wae, and taut him a tender paeshenss with which to baer and cumfort th nacheral longings and faeluers of thoes he luvd.

Next dae she put her pride in her poket, went to Sallie, toeld th trooth, and askt her to bie th silk as a faevor. Th guud-naecherd Mrs. Moffat wilingly did so, and had th delicasy not to maek her a prezent of it imeediatly afterward. Then Meg orderd hoem th graet-coet, and, when John arrived, she put it on, and askt him how he liked her nue silk goun. Wun can imajin whut anser he maed, how he reseevd his prezent, and whut a blissful staet of things ensued. John caem hoem eerly, Meg gaded no mor; and that graet-coet wuz put on in th morning by a verry hapy huzband, and taeken off at niet by a moest devoeted litl wief. So th yeer roeld round, and at midsumer thaer caem to Meg a nue expeeri’enss,—th deepest and tenderest of a wuuman's lief.

Laurie caem sneeking into th kichen of th Duv-cote, wun Saturday, with an exsieted faess, and wuz reseevd with th clash of simbals; for Hannah clapt her hands with a sauspan in wun and th cuver in th uther.

"How's th litl maama? Whaer is everybody? Whi didn't U tel me befor I caem hoem?" began Laurie, in a loud whisper.

"Hapy as a qeen, th deer! Every soel of 'em is upstaers a worshipin'; we didn't wont no hurrycanes round. Now U go into th parlor, and I'll send 'em doun to U," with which sumwhot involvd replie Hannah vanisht, chukling extatikaly.

Prezently Jo apeerd, proudly bearing a flanel bundle laed forth upon a larj pilo. Jo's faess wuz verry soeber, but her ies twinkled, and thaer wuz an od sound in her vois of represt emotion of sum sort.

"Shut yuur ies and hoeld out yuur arms," she sed invietingly.

Laurie bakt precipitately into a corner, and put his hands behind him with an imploring jescher: "No, thank U, I'd rather not. I shal drop it or smash it, as shuur as faet."

"Then U sha'n't see yuur nevvy," sed Jo decidedly, turning as if to go.

348 "I wil, I wil! oenly U must be responsibl for damejes;" and, oebaeing orders, Laurie heroeikaly shut his ies whiel sumthing wuz put into his arms. A peel of lafter from Jo, Amy, Mrs. March, Hannah, and John cauzd him to oepen them th next mienuet, to fiend himself invested with too baebys insted of wun.

Laurie heroically shut his eyes while something was put into his arms

No wunder thae laft, for th expreshon of his faess wuz droel enough to convulss a Quaker, as he stuud and staerd wieldly from th unconshus inosents to th hilaerius spektaetors, with such dismae that Jo sat doun on th flor and screemd.

"Twins, by Jupiter!" wuz all he sed for a mienuet; then, turning to th wimen with an apeeling luuk that wuz comikaly pitius, he aded, "Taek 'em qik, sumbody! I'm going to laf, and I shal drop 'em."

John rescued his baebys, and marcht up and doun, with wun on eech arm, as if aulredy inishiaeted into th misterys of baeby-tending, whiel Laurie laft till th teers ran doun his cheeks.

349 "It's th best joek of th seezon, isn't it? I wouldn't hav U toeld, for I set mi hart on serpriezing U, and I flater mieself I've dun it," sed Jo, when she got her breth.

"I never wuz mor stagerd in mi lief. Isn't it fun? Ar thae boys? Whut ar U going to naem them? Let's hav anuther luuk. Hoeld me up, Jo; for upon mi lief it's wun too meny for me," returnd Laurie, regarding th infants with th aer of a big, benevolent Newfoundland luuking at a paer of infantiel kitens.

"Boy and gurl. Aren't thae beauties?" sed th proud papa, beeming upon th litl, red squirmers as if thae wer unfledged aenjels.

"Moest remarkabl children I ever saw. Which is which?" and Laurie bent liek a wel-sweep to examine th prodijys.

"Amy put a bloo ribon on th boy and a pink on th gurl, French fashon, so U can aulwaes tel. Besieds, wun has bloo ies and wun broun. Kis them, Unkl Teddy," sed wiked Jo.

"I'm afraed thae mightn't liek it," began Laurie, with uenuezhual timidity in such maters.

"Of corss thae wil; thae ar uezd to it now. Do it this mienuet, sur!" comanded Jo, feering he miet propoez a proxy.

Laurie scrood up his faess, and oebaed with a jinjerly peck at eech litl cheek that produced anuther laf, and maed th baebys sqeel.

"Thaer, I knew thae didn't liek it! That's th boy; see him kik; he hits out with his fists liek a guud wun. Now then, yung Brooke, pich into a man of yuur oen size, wil U?" cried Laurie, delieted with a poek in th faess from a tieny fist, flaping aemlesly about.

"He's to be naemd John Laurence, and th gurl Margaret, after muther and grandmuther. We shal call her Daezy, so as not to hav too Megs, and I supoez th mannie wil be Jak, unles we fiend a beter naem," sed Amy, with ant-liek interest.

"Naem him Demijon, and call him 'Demi' for short," sed Laurie.

"Daezy and Demi,—just th thing! I knew Teddy wuud do it," cried Jo, claping her hands.

Teddy surtenly had dun it that tiem, for th baebys wer "Daezy" and "Demi" to th end of th chapter.


XXIX. Calls.

350

XXIX.

CALLS.

Calls

"Cum, Jo, it's tiem."

"For whut?"

"U don't meen to sae U hav forgoten that U promist to maek haf a duzen calls with me to-dae?"

"I've dun a guud meny rash and foolish things in mi lief, but I don't think I ever wuz mad enough to sae I'd maek six calls in wun dae, when a singgl wun upsets me for a week."

"Yes, U did; it wuz a bargan between us. I wuz to finish th craeon of Beth for U, and U wer to go properly with me, and return our naebors' vizits."

"If it wuz faer—that wuz in th bond; and I stand to th leter of mi bond, Shylock. Thaer is a piel of clouds in th eest; it's not faer, and I don't go."

"Now, that's shurking. It's a luvly dae, no prospekt of raen, and U pride yuurself on keeping promises; so be onorabl; cum and do yuur duty, and then be at peess for anuther six munths."

351 At that mienuet Jo wuz particularly absorbd in dresmaeking; for she wuz mantua-maeker jeneral to th family, and tuuk especial credit to herself because she cuud uez a needl as wel as a pen. It wuz verry provoeking to be arest in th akt of a furst trieing-on, and orderd out to maek calls in her best arae, on a worm July dae. She haeted calls of th formal sort, and never maed any till Amy compeld her with a bargan, bribe, or promis. In th prezent instanss, thaer wuz no escaep; and having clasht her sizors rebelyusly, whiel protesting that she smelt thunder, she gaev in, put away her wurk, and taeking up her hat and gluvs with an aer of rezignaeshon, toeld Amy th viktim wuz redy.

"Jo March, U ar pervurss enough to provoek a saent! U don't intend to maek calls in that staet, I hoep," cried Amy, survaeing her with amaezment.

"Whi not? I'm neet and cool and comfortable; qiet proper for a dusty wauk on a worm dae. If peepl caer mor for mi cloeths than thae do for me, I don't wish to see them. U can dres for boeth, and be as elegant as U pleez: it pays for U to be fien; it doesn't for me, and furbelows oenly wury me."

"O deer!" sighed Amy; "now she's in a contraery fit, and wil driev me distracted befor I can get her properly redy. I'm shuur it's no plezher to me to go to-dae, but it's a det we oe soesieety, and thaer's no wun to pae it but U and me. I'll do anything for U, Jo, if U'll oenly dres yuurself niesly, and cum and help me do th sivil. U can tauk so wel, luuk so aristocratic in yuur best things, and behaev so beautifully, if U tri, that I'm proud of U. I'm afraed to go aloen; do cum and taek caer of me."

"U're an artful litl puss to flater and wheedl yuur cros oeld sister in that wae. Th iedeea of mi being aristocratic and wel-bred, and yuur being afraed to go anywhere aloen! I don't noe which is th moest absurd. Wel, I'll go if I must, and do mi best. U shal be comander of th expedishon, and I'll oebae bliendly; wil that satisfi U?" sed Jo, with a suden chaenj from pervursity to lam-liek submission.

"U're a perfect cherrub! Now put on all yuur best things, and I'll tel U how to behaev at eech plaess, so that U wil maek a 352 guud impreshon. I wont peepl to liek U, and thae wuud if U'd oenly tri to be a litl mor agreeabl. Do yuur haer th prity wae, and put th pink roez in yuur bonnet; it's becuming, and U luuk too soeber in yuur plaen suit. Taek yuur liet gluvs and th embroidered hankerchif. We'll stop at Meg's, and borrow her whiet sunshade, and then U can hav mi duv-culord wun."

Whiel Amy drest, she ishood her orders, and Jo oebaed them; not without entering her proetest, however, for she sighed as she rusld into her nue organdie, fround darkly at herself as she tied her bonnet strings in an ireproechabl boe, resld vishusly with pins as she put on her collar, rinkld up her feechers jeneraly as she shuuk out th hankerchif, hoos embroidery wuz as iritaeting to her noez as th prezent mishon wuz to her feelings; and when she had sqeezd her hands into tight gluvs with three butons and a tasel, as th last tuch of eleganss, she turnd to Amy with an imbisil expreshon of countenanss, saeing meekly,—

"I'm perfectly mizerabl; but if U consider me prezentabl, I die hapy."

"U ar hiely satisfaktory; turn sloely round, and let me get a careful vue." Jo revolvd, and Amy gaev a tuch heer and thaer, then fel bak, with her hed on wun sied, obzurving graeshusly, "Yes, U'll do; yuur hed is all I cuud ask, for that whiet bonnet with th roez is qiet ravishing. Hoeld bak yuur shoulders, and carry yuur hands eezily, no mater if yuur gluvs do pinch. Thaer's wun thing U can do wel, Jo, that is, waer a shaul—I can't; but it's verry niess to see U, and I'm so glad Ant March gaev U that luvly wun; it's simpl, but handsum, and thoes foelds oever th arm ar reealy artistik. Is th pointer of mi mantl in th midl, and hav I loopt mi dres evenly? I liek to sho mi boots, for mi feet ar prity, tho mi noez isn't."

"U ar a thing of buety and a joy forever," sed Jo, luuking thru her hand with th aer of a connoisseur at th bloo fether against th goeld haer. "Am I to drag mi best dres thru th dust, or loop it up, pleez, maa'am?"

"Hoeld it up when U wauk, but drop it in th hous; th sweeping stiel suits U best, and U must lurn to trael yuur scurts graesfuly. 353 U haeven't haf butond wun cuf; do it at wunss. U'll never luuk finisht if U ar not careful about th litl deetaels, for thae maek up th pleezing hoel."

Jo sighed, and proceeded to burst th butons off her gluv, in dooing up her cuf; but at last boeth wer redy, and saeld away, luuking as "prity as picters," Hannah sed, as she hung out of th uper windo to woch them.

"Now, Jo deer, th Chesters consider themselvs verry elegant peepl, so I wont U to put on yuur best deportment. Don't maek any of yuur abrupt remarks, or do anything od, wil U? Just be calm, cool, and qieet,—that's saef and laedyliek; and U can eezily do it for fifteen minits," sed Amy, as thae approached th furst plaess, having borrowed th whiet parasol and been inspekted by Meg, with a baeby on eech arm.

"Let me see. 'Calm, cool, and qieet,'—yes, I think I can promis that. I've plaed th part of a prim yung laedy on th staej, and I'll tri it off. Mi powers ar graet, as U shal see; so be eezy in yuur miend, mi chield."

Amy luukt releevd, but nauty Jo tuuk her at her wurd; for, duuring th furst call, she sat with every lim graesfuly compoezd, every foeld correctly draept, calm as a sumer see, cool as a sno-bank, and as silent as a sfinx. In vaen Mrs. Chester alooded to her "charming novel," and th Mises Chester introduest partys, picnics, th opera, and th fashons; eech and all wer anserd by a smiel, a boe, and a demure "Yes" or "No," with th chil on. In vaen Amy telegraft th wurd "Tauk," tried to draw her out, and administerd covert poeks with her fuut. Jo sat as if blandly unconshus of it all, with deportment liek Maud's faess, "iesily reguelar, splendidly nul."

"Whut a hauty, uninteresting creecher that oeldest Mis March is!" wuz th unforchunatly audibl remark of wun of th laedys, as th dor cloezd upon thaer guests. Jo laft noizlesly all thru th haul, but Amy luukt disgusted at th faeluer of her instrukshons, and verry nacheraly laed th blaem upon Jo.

"How cuud U mistaek me so? I meerly ment U to be properly dignified and compoezd, and U maed yuurself a perfect 354 stok and stoen. Tri to be soeshabl at th Lams', gosip as uther gurls do, and be interested in dres and flurtaeshons and whotever nonsenss cums up. Thae moov in th best soesieety, ar valueable pursons for us to noe, and I wouldn't fael to maek a guud impreshon thaer for anything."

"I'll be agreeabl; I'll gosip and gigl, and hav horrors and rapchers oever any trifle U liek. I rather enjoy this, and now I'll imitaet whut is called 'a charming gurl;' I can do it, for I hav Mae Chester as a model, and I'll improov upon her. See if th Lams don't sae, 'Whut a lievly, niess creecher that Jo March is!'"

Amy felt anxious, as wel she miet, for when Jo turnd freekish thaer wuz no noeing whaer she wuud stop. Amy's faess wuz a study when she saw her sister skim into th next drawing-room, kis all th yung laedys with effusion, beem graeshusly upon th yung jentlmen, and join in th chat with a spirit which amaezd th behoelder. Amy wuz taeken possession of by Mrs. Lam, with hoom she wuz a faevorit, and forst to heer a long account of Lucretia's last attack, whiel three delietful yung jentlmen huverd neer, waeting for a pause when thae miet rush in and rescue her. So situated, she wuz powerless to chek Jo, hoo seemd possessed by a spirit of mischif, and taukt away as voluebly as th oeld laedy. A not of heds gatherd about her, and Amy straend her eers to heer whut wuz going on; for broeken sentenses fild her with alarm, round ies and uplifted hands tormented her with cueriosity, and freeqent peals of lafter maed her wield to shaer th fun. Wun mae imajin her sufering on oeverheering fragments of this sort of conversation:—

"She rieds splendidly,—hoo taut her?"

"No wun; she uezd to practise mounting, hoelding th raens, and sitting straet on an oeld sadl in a tree. Now she rieds anything, for she doesn't noe whut feer is, and th staebl-man lets her hav horses cheep, because she traens them to carry laedys so wel. She has such a pashon for it, I ofen tel her if everything else faels she can be a horss-braeker, and get her living so."

At this auful speech Amy contained herself with dificulty, for th impreshon wuz being given that she wuz rather a fast yung laedy, which wuz her especial avurzhon. But whut cuud she do? for th 355 oeld laedy wuz in th midl of her story, and long befor it wuz dun Jo wuz off again, maeking mor droel revelaeshons, and comiting still mor feerful blunders.

"Yes, Amy wuz in despaer that dae, for all th guud beests wer gon, and of three left, wun wuz laem, wun bliend, and th uther so balky that U had to put durt in his mouth befor he wuud start. Niess animal for a plezher party, wasn't it?"

"Which did she chooz?" askt wun of th lafing jentlmen, hoo enjoyd th subjekt.

"Nun of them; she hurd of a yung horss at th farmhous oever th river, and, tho a laedy had never riden him, she rezolvd to tri, because he wuz handsum and spirited. Her strugls wer reealy pathetik; thaer wuz no wun to bring th horss to th sadl, so she tuuk th sadl to th horss. Mi deer creecher, she akchualy roed it oever th river, put it on her hed, and marcht up to th barn to th uter amaezment of th oeld man!"

She took the saddle to the horse

"Did she ried th horss?"

356 "Of corss she did, and had a capital tiem. I expected to see her brought hoem in fragments, but she manejd him perfectly, and wuz th lief of th party."

"Wel, I call that plucky!" and yung Mr. Lam turnd an aprooving glanss upon Amy, wundering whut his muther cuud be saeing to maek th gurl luuk so red and uncumfortabl.

She wuz still reder and mor uncumfortabl a moement after, when a suden turn in th conversation introduest th subjekt of dres. Wun of th yung laedys askt Jo whaer she got th prity drab hat she wor to th picnic; and stoopid Jo, insted of menshoning th plaess whaer it wuz bought too yeers ago, must needs anser, with unnesesaery franknes, "O, Amy paented it; U can't bie thoes soft shaeds, so we paent ours any culor we liek. It's a graet cumfort to hav an artistik sister."

"Isn't that an orijinal iedeea?" cried Mis Lam, hoo found Jo graet fun.

"That's nuthing compaerd to sum of her brilliant performances. Thaer's nuthing th chield can't do. Whi, she wontedw a paer of bloo boots for Sallie's party, so she just paented her soild whiet wuns th luvyest shaed of ski-bloo U ever saw, and thae luukt exaktly liek satin," aded Jo, with an aer of pride in her sister's accomplishments that exasperaeted Amy till she felt that it wuud be a releef to thro her card-caess at her.

"We red a story of yuurs th uther dae, and enjoyd it verry much," obzurvd th elder Mis Lam, wishing to compliment th literaery laedy, hoo did not luuk th carrakter just then, it must be confest.

Any menshon of her "wurks" aulwaes had a bad efekt upon Jo, hoo eether groo rijid and luukt ofended, or chaenjd th subjekt with a brusque remark, as now. "Sorry U cuud fiend nuthing beter to red. I riet that rubish because it sels, and ordinaery peepl liek it. Ar U going to Nue York this winter?"

As Mis Lam had "enjoyd" th story, this speech wuz not exaktly graetful or complimentary. Th mienuet it wuz maed Jo saw her mistaek; but, feering to maek th mater wurss, sudenly rememberd that it wuz for her to maek th furst moov tord deparcher, and did so with an abruptnes that left three peepl with haf-finisht sentenses in thaer mouths.

357 "Amy, we must go. Guud-by, deer; do cum and see us; we ar piening for a vizit. I don't daer to ask U, Mr. Lam; but if U should cum, I don't think I shal hav th hart to send U away."

Jo sed this with such a droel imitaeshon of Mae Chester's gushing stiel that Amy got out of th room as rapidly as posibl, feeling a strong dezier to laf and cri at th saem tiem.

"Didn't I do that wel?" askt Jo, with a satisfied aer, as thae waukt away.

"Nuthing cuud hav been wurss," wuz Amy's crushing replie. "Whut possessed U to tel thoes storys about mi sadl, and th hats and boots, and all th rest of it?"

"Whi, it's funy, and amuezes peepl. Thae noe we ar puur, so it's no uez pretending that we hav grooms, bie three or foer hats a seezon, and hav things as eezy and fien as thae do."

"U needn't go and tel them all our litl shifts, and expoez our poverty in that perfectly unnesesaery wae. U haeven't a bit of proper pride, and never wil lurn when to hoeld yuur tung and when to speek," sed Amy despaeringly.

Puur Jo luukt abasht, and silently chaeft th end of her noez with th stif hankerchif, as if performing a penanss for her misdemeenors.

"How shal I behaev heer?" she askt, as thae approached th thurd manshon.

"Just as U pleez; I wosh mi hands of U," wuz Amy's short anser.

"Then I'll enjoy mieself. Th boys ar at hoem, and we'll hav a comfortable tiem. Guudnes noes I need a litl chaenj, for eleganss has a bad efekt upon mi constitueshon," returnd Jo grufly, being disturbs by her faeluers to suit.

An enthusiastic welcum from three big boys and several prity children speedily soothd her rufld feelings; and, leeving Amy to entertain th hoestes and Mr. Tudor, hoo happened to be calling liekwiez, Jo devoeted herself to th yung foeks, and found th chaenj refreshing. She lisend to colej storys with deep interest, caressed pointers and poodels without a murmer, agreed hartily that "Tom Broun wuz a brick," regardles of th improper form of praez; and 358 when wun lad propoezd a vizit to his turtle-tank, she went with an alacrity which cauzd maama to smiel upon her, as that mutherly laedy setld th cap which wuz left in a rooinus condishon by filial hugs, baer-liek but affectionate, and deerer to her than th moest faultless coiffure from th hands of an inspired Frenchwoman.

Leeving her sister to her oen devieses, Amy proceeded to enjoy herself to her hart's content. Mr. Tudor's unkl had marryd an English laedy hoo wuz thurd cuzin to a living lord, and Amy regarded th hoel family with graet respekt; for, in spiet of her American burth and breeding, she possessed that reverenss for tietls which haunts th best of us,—that unaknolejd loyalty to th eerly faeth in kings which set th moest democratik naeshon under th sun in a furment at th cuming of a royal yelo-haired laddie, sum yeers ago, and which still has sumthing to do with th luv th yung cuntry baers th oeld, liek that of a big sun for an impeerius litl muther, hoo held him whiel she cuud, and let him go with a faerwel scoelding when he rebeld. But eeven th satisfakshon of tauking with a distant connection of th British noebility did not render Amy forgetful of tiem; and when th proper number of minits had past, she reluktantly tore herself from this aristocratic soesieety, and luukt about for Jo, furvently hoeping that her incorijibl sister wuud not be found in any pozishon which should bring disgraess upon th naem of March.

It might have been worse

It miet hav been wurss, but Amy considerd it bad; for Jo sat on th gras, with an encampment of boys about her, and a durty-fuuted dog repoezing on th scurt of her staet and festival dres, as she relaeted wun of Laurie's pranks to her admiering audi’enss. Wun small chield wuz poeking turtles with Amy's cherrisht parasol, a second wuz eating jinjerbred oever Jo's best bonnet, and a thurd plaeing baul with her gluvs. But all wer enjoying themselvs; and when Jo colekted her damejd property to go, her escort accompanied her, beging her to cum again, "it wuz such fun to heer about Laurie's larks."

"Capital boys, aren't thae? I feel qiet yung and brisk again after that," sed Jo, stroeling along with her hands behind her, partly from habit, partly to conceal th bespattered parasol.

"Whi do U aulwaes avoid Mr. Tudor?" askt Amy, wiezly refraening from any coment upon Jo's dilapidaeted apeeranss.

359 "Don't liek him; he puts on aers, snubs his sisters, wurys his faather, and doesn't speek respektfuly of his muther. Laurie sez he is fast, and I don't consider him a dezierabl aqaentanss; so I let him aloen."

"U miet treat him sivily, at leest. U gaev him a cool nod; and just now U bowd and smield in th politest wae to Tommy Chaemberlen, hoos faather keeps a groesery stor. If U had just revurst th nod and th boe, it wuud hav been riet," sed Amy reproovingly.

"No, it wouldn't," returnd pervurss Jo; "I neether liek, respekt, nor admier Tudor, tho his grandfaather's unkl's nefue's neess wuz thurd cuzin to a lord. Tommy is puur and bashful and guud and verry clever; I think wel of him, and liek to sho that I do, for he is a jentlman in spiet of th broun-paeper parsels."

"It's no uez trieing to argue with U," began Amy.

"Not th leest, mi deer," interupted Jo; "so let us luuk aemiabl, and drop a card heer, as th Kings ar evidently out, for which I'm deeply graetful."

Th family card-caess having dun its duty, th gurls waukt on, and Jo uterd anuther thanksgiving on reeching th fifth hous, and being toeld that th yung laedys wer engaejd.

360 "Now let us go hoem, and never miend Ant March to-dae. We can run doun thaer any tiem, and it's reealy a pity to trael thru th dust in our best bibs and tuckers, when we ar tierd and cros."

"Speek for yuurself, if U pleez. Ant lieks to hav us pae her th compliment of cuming in stiel, and maeking a formal call; it's a litl thing to do, but it givs her plezher, and I don't beleev it wil hurt yuur things haf so much as leting durty dogs and clumping boys spoil them. Stoop doun, and let me taek th crums off of yuur bonnet."

"Whut a guud gurl U ar, Amy!" sed Jo, with a repentant glanss from her oen damejd costume to that of her sister, which wuz fresh and spotless still. "I wish it wuz as eezy for me to do litl things to pleez peepl as it is for U. I think of them, but it taeks too much tiem to do them; so I waet for a chanss to confur a graet faevor, and let th small wuns slip; but thae tel best in th end, I fansy."

Amy smield, and wuz molified at wunss, saeing with a maturnal aer,—

"Wimen should lurn to be agreeabl, particularly puur wuns; for thae hav no uther wae of re-paeing th kiendneses thae reseev. If U'd remember that, and practise it, U'd be beter liked than I am, because thaer is mor of U."

"I'm a crochety oeld thing, and aulwaes shal be, but I'm wiling to oen that U ar riet; oenly it's eezyer for me to risk mi lief for a purson than to be plezant to him when I don't feel liek it. It's a graet misforchun to hav such strong lieks and dislieks, isn't it?"

"It's a graeter not to be aebl to hied them. I don't miend saeing that I don't aproov of Tudor any mor than U do; but I'm not called upon to tel him so; neether ar U, and thaer is no uez in maeking yuurself disagreeabl because he is."

"But I think gurls aut to sho when thae disaproov of yung men; and how can thae do it exsept by thaer maners? Preeching duz not do any guud, as I noe to mi sorro, sinss I've had Teddy to manej; but thaer ar meny litl waes in which I can inflooenss him without a wurd, and I sae we aut to do it to others if we can."

"Teddy is a remarkabl boy, and can't be taeken as a sampl of uther boys," sed Amy, in a toen of solem convikshon, which wuud 361 hav convulst th "remarkabl boy," if he had hurd it. "If we wer belles, or wimen of welth and pozishon, we miet do sumthing, perhaps; but for us to froun at wun set of yung jentlmen because we don't aproov of them, and smiel upon anuther set because we do, wouldn't hav a partikl of efekt, and we should oenly be considerd od and puritanical."

"So we ar to countenanss things and peepl which we detest, meerly because we ar not belles and milyonaers, ar we? That's a niess sort of morality."

"I can't argue about it, I oenly noe that it's th wae of th wurld; and peepl hoo set themselvs against it oenly get laft at for thaer paens. I don't liek reformers, and I hoep U wil never tri to be wun."

"I do liek them, and I shal be wun if I can; for in spiet of th lafing, th wurld wuud never get on without them. We can't agree about that, for U belong to th oeld set, and I to th nue: U wil get on th best, but I shal hav th lievlyest tiem of it. I should rather enjoy th brickbats and hooting, I think."

"Wel, compoez yuurself now, and don't wury ant with yuur nue iedeeas."

"I'll tri not to, but I'm aulwaes possessed to burst out with sum particularly blunt speech or revolooshonaery sentiment befor her; it's mi doom, and I can't help it."

Thae found Ant Carrol with th oeld laedy, boeth absorbd in sum verry interesting subjekt; but thae dropt it as th gurls caem in, with a conshus luuk which betraed that thae had been tauking about thaer neeses. Jo wuz not in a guud huemor, and th pervurss fit returnd; but Amy, hoo had vurchu’usly dun her duty, kept her temper, and pleezd everybody, wuz in a moest anjelik fraem of miend. This aemiabl spirit wuz felt at wunss, and boeth th aunts "mi deared" her affectionately, luuking whut thae afterwards sed emfatikaly,—"That chield improovs every dae."

"Ar U going to help about th faer, deer?" askt Mrs. Carrol, as Amy sat doun besied her with th confieding aer elderly peepl liek so wel in th yung.

"Yes, ant. Mrs. Chester askt me if I wuud, and I oferd to tend a taebl, as I hav nuthing but mi tiem to giv."

362 "I'm not," put in Jo decidedly. "I haet to be patronized, and th Chesters think it's a graet faevor to alow us to help with thaer hiely connected faer. I wunder U consented, Amy: thae oenly wont U to wurk."

"I am wiling to wurk: it's for th freedmen as wel as th Chesters, and I think it verry kiend of them to let me shaer th laebor and th fun. Patronage duz not trubl me when it is wel ment."

"Qiet riet and proper. I liek yuur graetful spirit, mi deer; it's a plezher to help peepl hoo appreciate our eforts: sum do not, and that is trieing," obzurvd Ant March, luuking oever her spektakls at Jo, hoo sat apart, roking herself, with a sumwhot moroess expreshon.

The call at Aunt March's

If Jo had oenly noen whut a graet hapynes wuz wavering in th balance for wun of them, she wuud hav turnd dovelike in a mienuet; but, unforchunatly, we don't hav windoes in our breasts, and cannot see whut goes on in th miends of our frends; beter for us that we cannot as a jeneral thing, but now and then it wuud be such a cumfort, such a saeving of tiem and temper. By her next speech, Jo deprievd herself of several yeers of plezher, and reseevd a timely leson in th art of hoelding her tung.

363 "I don't liek faevors; thae opres and maek me feel liek a slaev. I'd rather do everything for mieself, and be perfectly independent."

"Ahem!" coft Ant Carrol softly, with a luuk at Ant March.

"I toeld U so," sed Ant March, with a desieded nod to Ant Carrol.

Mursyfuly unconshus of whut she had dun, Jo sat with her noez in th aer, and a revolooshonaery aspekt which wuz anything but invieting.

"Do U speek French, deer?" askt Mrs. Carrol, laeing her hand on Amy's.

"Prity wel, thanks to Ant March, hoo lets Esther tauk to me as ofen as I liek," replied Amy, with a graetful luuk, which cauzd th oeld laedy to smiel affably.

"How ar U about langgwejes?" askt Mrs. Carrol of Jo.

"Don't noe a wurd; I'm verry stoopid about studying anything; can't baer French, it's such a slippery, sily sort of langgwej," wuz th brusque replie.

Anuther luuk past between th laedys, and Ant March sed to Amy, "U ar qiet strong and wel, now, deer, I beleev? Ies don't trubl U any mor, do thae?"

"Not at all, thank U, maa'am. I'm verry wel, and meen to do graet things next winter, so that I mae be redy for Rome, whenever that joyful tiem arrives."

"Guud gurl! U dezurv to go, and I'm shuur U wil sum dae," sed Ant March, with an aprooving pat on th hed, as Amy pikt up her baul for her.

"Cros-pach, draw th lach,

Sit by th fier and spin,"

squalled Polly, bending doun from his purch on th bak of her chaer to peep into Jo's faess, with such a comikal aer of impurtinent inqiery that it wuz imposibl to help lafing.

"Moest obzurving burd," sed th oeld laedy.

"Cum and taek a wauk, mi deer?" cried Polly, hoping tord th china-clozet, with a luuk suggestive of lump-sugar.

"Thank U, I wil. Cum, Amy;" and Jo brought th vizit to an end, feeling mor strongly than ever that calls did hav a bad efekt 364 upon her constitueshon. She shuuk hands in a jentlmanly maner, but Amy kist boeth th aunts, and th gurls departed, leeving behind them th impreshon of shado and sunshine; which impreshon cauzd Ant March to sae, as thae vanisht,—

"U'd beter do it, Mary; I'll suplie th muny," and Ant Carrol to replie decidedly, "I surtenly wil, if her faather and muther consent."

Tail-piece

XXX. Consequences.

365

You shall have another table

XXX.

CONSEQUENCES.

Mrs. Chester's faer wuz so verry elegant and selekt that it wuz considerd a graet onor by th yung laedys of th naeborhuud to be invieted to taek a taebl, and every wun wuz much interested in th mater. Amy wuz askt, but Jo wuz not, which wuz forchunat for all partys, as her elboes wer decidedly akimbo at this period of her lief, and it tuuk a guud meny hard noks to teech her how to get on eezily. Th "hauty, uninteresting creecher" wuz let seveerly aloen; but Amy's talent and taest wer duely complimented by th ofer of th art-taebl, and she exerted herself to prepaer and secuer aproepriat and valueable contributions to it.

Everything went on smoothly till th dae befor th faer oepend; then thaer ocurd wun of th litl skirmishes which it is aulmoest imposibl 366 to avoid, when sum fiev and twenty wimen, oeld and yung, with all thaer private piques and prejudises, tri to wurk together.

Mae Chester wuz rather jelus of Amy because th later wuz a graeter faevorit than herself, and, just at this tiem, several trifling surcumstanses ocurd to increess th feeling. Amy's dainty pen-and-ink wurk entierly eclipst Mae's paented vaeses,—that wuz wun thorn; then th all-conkering Tudor had danst foer times with Amy, at a laet party, and oenly wunss with Mae,—that wuz thorn number too; but th cheef greevanss that rankld in her soel, and gaev her an excuez for her unfrendly conduct, wuz a roomor which sum obliejing gosip had whisperd to her, that th March gurls had maed fun of her at th Lams'. All th blaem of this should hav faulen upon Jo, for her nauty imitaeshon had been too liefliek to escaep detekshon, and th froliksum Lams had permited th joek to escaep. No hint of this had reached th culprits, however, and Amy's dismae can be imajind, when, th verry evening befor th faer, as she wuz putting th last tuches to her prity taebl, Mrs. Chester, hoo, of corss, rezented th supoezd ridicuel of her dauter, sed, in a bland toen, but with a coeld luuk,—

"I fiend, deer, that thaer is sum feeling amung th yung laedys about mi giving this taebl to any wun but mi gurls. As this is th moest prominent, and sum sae th moest atraktiv taebl of all, and thae ar th cheef getters-up of th faer, it is thaut best for them to taek this plaess. I'm sorry, but I noe U ar too sincerely interested in th cauz to miend a litl pursonal disapointment, and U shal hav anuther taebl if U liek."

Mrs. Chester had fansyd beforehand that it wuud be eezy to deliver this litl speech; but when th tiem caem, she found it rather dificult to uter it nacheraly, with Amy's unsuspicious ies luuking straet at her, fuul of serpriez and trubl.

Amy felt that thaer wuz sumthing behind this, but cuud not ges whut, and sed qieetly, feeling hurt, and shoeing that she did,—

"Perhaps U had rather I tuuk no taebl at all?"

"Now, mi deer, don't hav any il feeling, I beg; it's meerly a mater of expeedi’ensy, U see; mi gurls wil nacheraly taek th leed, and this taebl is considerd thaer proper plaess. I think it verry aproepriat 367 to U, and feel verry graetful for yuur eforts to maek it so prity; but we must giv up our private wishes, of corss, and I wil see that U hav a guud plaess elsewhere. Wouldn't U liek th flower-taebl? Th litl gurls undertuuk it, but thae ar discurejd. U cuud maek a charming thing of it, and th flower-taebl is aulwaes atraktiv, U noe."

"Especially to jentlmen," aded Mae, with a luuk which enlightened Amy as to wun cauz of her suden faul from faevor. She culord anggrily, but tuuk no uther noetis of that gurlish sarcazm, and anserd, with unexpekted aemiability,—

"It shal be as U pleez, Mrs. Chester. I'll giv up mi plaess heer at wunss, and atend to th flowers, if U liek."

"U can put yuur oen things on yuur oen taebl, if U prefur," began Mae, feeling a litl conshenss-striken, as she luukt at th prity raks, th paented shels, and qaent iloominaeshons Amy had so carefully maed and so graesfuly araenjd. She ment it kiendly, but Amy mistuuk her meening, and sed qikly,—

"O, surtenly, if thae ar in yuur wae;" and sweeping her contributions into her apron, pelmel, she waukt off, feeling that herself and her wurks of art had been insulted past forgivnes.

"Now she's mad. O, deer, I wish I hadn't askt U to speek, maama," sed Mae, luuking disconsolatly at th empty spaeses on her taebl.

"Gurls' qorrels ar soon oever," returnd her muther, feeling a trifle ashamed of her oen part in this wun, as wel she miet.

Th litl gurls haeld Amy and her treasures with deliet, which corjal resepshon sumwhot soothd her perturbed spirit, and she fel to wurk, deturmind to succeed florally, if she cuud not artistikaly. But everything seemd against her: it wuz laet, and she wuz tierd; every wun wuz too busy with thaer oen affairs to help her; and th litl gurls wer oenly hindranses, for th dears fust and chaterd liek so meny magpies, maeking a graet deel of confuezhon in thaer artles eforts to prezurv th moest perfect order. Th evergreen arch wouldn't stae furm after she got it up, but wigld and thretend to tumbl doun on her hed when th hanging baskets wer fild; her best tiel got a splash of wauter, which left a seepia teer on th Cuepid's 368 cheek; she broozd her hands with hamering, and got coeld wurking in a draft, which last aflikshon fild her with aprehenshons for th morro. Any gurl-reeder hoo has suferd liek aflikshons wil sympathize with puur Amy, and wish her wel thru with her task.

Thaer wuz graet indignaeshon at hoem when she toeld her story that evening. Her muther sed it wuz a shaem, but toeld her she had dun riet; Beth declaerd she wouldn't go to th faer at all; and Jo demanded whi she didn't taek all her prity things and leev thoes meen peepl to get on without her.

"Because thae ar meen is no reezon whi I should be. I haet such things, and tho I think I've a riet to be hurt, I don't intend to sho it. Thae wil feel that mor than anggry speeches or hufy akshons, wun't thae, Marmee?"

"That's th riet spirit, mi deer; a kis for a blo is aulwaes best, tho it's not verry eezy to giv it sumtiems," sed her muther, with th aer of wun hoo had lurnd th diferenss between preeching and practising.

In spiet of vaerius verry nacheral temptaeshons to rezent and retaliaet, Amy adheerd to her rezolooshon all th next dae, bent on conkering her enemy by kiendnes. She began wel, thanks to a silent remiender that caem to her unexpectedly, but moest opportunely. As she araenjd her taebl that morning, whiel th litl gurls wer in an ante-room filing th baskets, she tuuk up her pet produkshon,—a litl book, th anteek cuver of which her faather had found amung his treasures, and in which, on leevs of vellum, she had beautifully iloominaeted diferent texts. As she turnd th paejes, rich in dainty devieses, with verry pardonable pride, her ie fel upon wun vurss that maed her stop and think. Fraemd in a brilliant scroel-wurk of scarlet, bloo, and goeld, with litl spirits of guud-wil helping wun anuther up and doun amung th thorns and flowers, wer th wurds, "Thow shalt luv thi naebor as thyself."

"I aut, but I don't," thaut Amy, as her ie went from th briet paej to Mae's discontented faess behind th big vaeses, that cuud not hied th vaecansys her prity wurk had wunss fild. Amy stuud a mienuet, turning th leevs in her hand, reeding on eech sum sweet rebuek for all hart-burnings and uncharitableness of spirit. 369 Meny wiez and troo surmons ar preecht us every dae by unconshus ministers in street, scool, ofis, or hoem; eeven a faer-taebl mae becum a pulpit, if it can ofer th guud and helpful wurds which ar never out of seezon. Amy's conshenss preecht her a litl surmon from that text, then and thaer; and she did whut meny of us do not aulwaes do,—tuuk th surmon to hart, and straetwae put it in praktis.

A groop of gurls wer standing about Mae's taebl, admiering th prity things, and tauking oever th chaenj of saelzwimen. Thae dropt thaer voises, but Amy knew thae wer speeking of her, heering wun sied of th story, and jujing acordingly. It wuz not plezant, but a beter spirit had cum oever her, and prezently a chanss oferd for prooving it. She hurd Mae sae sorroefuly,—

"It's too bad, for thaer is no tiem to maek uther things, and I don't wont to fil up with ods and ends. Th taebl wuz just complete then: now it's spoilt."

"I daer sae she'd put them bak if U askt her," sugjested sum wun.

"How cuud I after all th fus?" began Mae, but she did not finish, for Amy's vois caem acros th haul, saeing pleasantly,—

"U mae hav them, and welcum, without asking, if U wont them. I wuz just thinking I'd ofer to put them bak, for thae belong to yuur taebl rather than mien. Heer thae ar; pleez taek them, and forgiv me if I wuz hasty in carrying them away last niet."

As she spoek, Amy returnd her contribution, with a nod and a smiel, and huryd away again, feeling that it wuz eezyer to do a frendly thing than it wuz to stae and be thankt for it.

"Now, I call that luvly of her, don't U?" cried wun gurl.

Mae's anser wuz inaudibl; but anuther yung laedy, hoos temper wuz evidently a litl sourd by maeking lemonaed, aded, with a disagreeabl laf, "Verry luvly; for she knew she wouldn't sel them at her oen taebl."

Now, that wuz hard; when we maek litl sacrifieses we liek to hav them appreciated, at leest; and for a mienuet Amy wuz sorry she had dun it, feeling that vurchoo wuz not aulwaes its oen reword. But it is,—as she prezently discuverd; for her spirits began to riez, and 370 her taebl to blossom under her skilful hands; th gurls wer verry kiend, and that wun litl akt seemd to hav cleerd th atmosphere amaezingly.

It wuz a verry long dae, and a hard wun to Amy, as she sat behind her taebl, ofen qiet aloen, for th litl gurls dezurted verry soon: fue caerd to bie flowers in sumer, and her bouquets began to droop long befor niet.

Th art-taebl wuz th moest atraktiv in th room; thaer wuz a croud about it all dae long, and th tenders wer constantly flieing to and fro with important faeses and ratling muny-boxes. Amy ofen luukt wistfuly acros, longing to be thaer, whaer she felt at hoem and hapy, insted of in a corner with nuthing to do. It miet seem no hardship to sum of us; but to a prity, blithe yung gurl, it wuz not oenly teedius, but verry trieing; and th thaut of being found thaer in th evening by her family, and Laurie and his frends, maed it a reeal marterdom.

She did not go hoem till niet, and then she luukt so pale and qieet that thae knew th dae had been a hard wun, tho she maed no complaent, and did not eeven tel whut she had dun. Her muther gaev her an extra corjal cup of tee, Beth helpt her dres, and maed a charming litl reeth for her haer, whiel Jo astonisht her family by geting herself up with uenuezhual caer, and hinting darkly that th taebls wer about to be turnd.

"Don't do anything rood, prae, Jo. I wun't hav any fus maed, so let it all pas, and behaev yuurself," begd Amy, as she departed eerly, hoeping to fiend a re-inforsment of flowers to refreshes her puur litl taebl.

"I meerly intend to maek mieself entrancingly agreeabl to every wun I noe, and to keep them in yuur corner as long as posibl. Teddy and his boys wil lend a hand, and we'll hav a guud tiem yet," returnd Jo, leening oever th gaet to woch for Laurie. Prezently th familyar tramp wuz hurd in th dusk, and she ran out to meet him.

"Is that mi boy?"

"As shuur as this is mi gurl!" and Laurie tukt her hand under his arm, with th aer of a man hoos every wish wuz gratified.

371 "O Teddy, such dooings!" and Jo toeld Amy's rongs with sisterly zeel.

"A flok of our feloes ar going to driev oever by and by, and I'll be hangd if I don't maek them bie every flower she's got, and camp doun befor her taebl afterward," sed Laurie, espousing her cauz with warmth.

"Th flowers ar not at all niess, Amy sez, and th fresh wuns mae not arrive in tiem. I don't wish to be unjust or suspishus, but I shouldn't wunder if thae never caem at all. When peepl do wun meen thing thae ar verry liekly to do anuther," obzurvd Jo, in a disgusted toen.

"Didn't Hayes giv U th best out of our gardens? I toeld him to."

"I didn't noe that; he forgot, I supoez; and, as yuur grandpa wuz poorly, I didn't liek to wury him by asking, tho I did wont sum."

"Now, Jo, how cuud U think thaer wuz any need of asking! Thae ar just as much yuurs as mien. Don't we aulwaes go havs in everything?" began Laurie, in th toen that aulwaes maed Jo turn thorny.

"Graeshus, I hoep not! haf of sum of yuur things wouldn't suit me at all. But we mustn't stand philandering heer; I've got to help Amy, so U go and maek yuurself splendid; and if U'll be so verry kiend as to let Hayes taek a fue niess flowers up to th Haul, I'll bles U forever."

"Couldn't U do it now?" askt Laurie, so suggestively that Jo shut th gaet in his faess with inhospitabl haest, and called thru th bars, "Go away, Teddy; I'm busy."

Thanks to th conspirators, th taebls wer turnd that niet; for Hayes sent up a wildernes of flowers, with a luvly basket, araenjd in his best maner, for a senter-peess; then th March family turnd out en masse, and Jo exerted herself to sum purpos, for peepl not oenly caem, but staed, lafing at her nonsenss, admiering Amy's taest, and apparently enjoying themselvs verry much. Laurie and his frends galantly throo themselvs into th breach, bought up th bouquets, encamped befor th taebl, and maed that corner th lievlyest 372 spot in th room. Amy wuz in her element now, and, out of gratitood, if nuthing mor, wuz as sprietly and graeshus as posibl,—cuming to th concloozhon, about that tiem, that vurchoo wuz its oen reword, after all.

Bought up the bouquets

Jo behaevd herself with exemplary propriety; and when Amy wuz hapily serounded by her gard of onor, Jo surcuelaeted about th haul, piking up vaerius bits of gosip, which enlightened her upon th subjekt of th Chester chaenj of baess. She reproecht herself for her shaer of th il-feeling, and rezolvd to exoneraet Amy as soon as posibl; she aulso discuverd whut Amy had dun about th things in th morning, and considerd her a model of magnanimity. As she past th art-taebl, she glanst oever it for her sister's things, but saw no siens of them. "Tukt away out of siet, I daer sae," thaut Jo, hoo cuud forgiv her oen rongs, but hotly rezented any insult oferd to her family.

"Guud evening, Mis Jo. How duz Amy get on?" askt Mae, with a conciliatory aer, for she wontedw to sho that she aulso cuud be jenerus.

373 "She has soeld everything she had that wuz wurth seling, and now she is enjoying herself. Th flower-taebl is aulwaes atraktiv, U noe, 'especially to jentlmen.'"

Jo couldn't rezist giving that litl slap, but Mae tuuk it so meekly she regreted it a mienuet after, and fel to praezing th graet vaeses, which still remaend unsoeld.

"Is Amy's iloominaeshon anywhere about? I tuuk a fansy to bie that for faather," sed Jo, verry anxious to lurn th faet of her sister's wurk.

"Everything of Amy's soeld long ago; I tuuk caer that th riet peepl saw them, and thae maed a niess litl sum of muny for us," returnd Mae, hoo had oevercum sundry small temptaeshons, as wel as Amy, that dae.

Much gratified, Jo rusht bak to tel th guud nues; and Amy luukt boeth tucht and serpriezd by th report of Mae's wurds and maner.

"Now, jentlmen, I wont U to go and do yuur duty by th uther taebls as jenerusly as U hav by mien—especially th art-taebl," she sed, ordering out "Teddy's Oen," as th gurls called th colej frends.

"'Charj, Chester, charj!' is th moto for that taebl; but do yuur duty liek men, and U'll get yuur muny's wurth of art in every senss of th wurd," sed th irepresibl Jo, as th devoeted phalanx prepaerd to taek th feeld.

"To heer is to oebae, but March is faerer far than Mae," sed litl Parker, maeking a frantik efort to be boeth wity and tender, and geting promptly qencht by Laurie, hoo sed, "Verry wel, mi sun, for a small boy!" and waukt him off, with a paturnal pat on th hed.

"Bie th vaeses," whisperd Amy to Laurie, as a fienal heeping of coels of fier on her enemy's hed.

To Mae's graet deliet, Mr. Laurence not oenly bought th vaeses, but pervaeded th haul with wun under eech arm. Th uther jentlmen specuelaeted with equal rashnes in all sorts of frael trifles, and waanderd helplessly about afterward, burdend with wax flowers, paented fans, filigree portfolios, and uther uesful and aproepriat purchases.

374 Ant Carrol wuz thaer, hurd th story, luukt pleezd, and sed sumthing to Mrs. March in a corner, which maed th later laedy beem with satisfakshon, and woch Amy with a faess fuul of minggld pride and anxiety, tho she did not betrae th cauz of her plezher till several daes laeter.

Th faer wuz pronounced a success; and when Mae bade Amy guud niet, she did not "gush" as uezhual, but gaev her an affectionate kis, and a luuk which sed, "Forgiv and forget." That satisfied Amy; and when she got hoem she found th vaeses paraded on th parlor chimny-peess, with a graet bouquet in eech. "Th reword of merrit for a magnanimus March," as Laurie anounst with a flurish.

"U've a deel mor prinsipl and jenerosity and nobleness of carrakter than I ever gaev U credit for, Amy. U've behaevd sweetly, and I respekt U with all mi hart," sed Jo wormly, as thae brushed thaer haer together laet that niet.

"Yes, we all do, and luv her for being so redy to forgiv. It must hav been dredfuly hard, after wurking so long, and setting yuur hart on seling yuur oen prity things. I don't beleev I cuud hav dun it as kiendly as U did," aded Beth from her pilo.

"Whi, gurls, U needn't praez me so; I oenly did as I'd be dun by. U laf at me when I sae I wont to be a laedy, but I meen a troo jentlwuuman in miend and maners, and I tri to do it as far as I noe how. I can't explaen exaktly, but I wont to be abuv th litl meannesses and folys and faults that spoil so meny wimen. I'm far from it now, but I do mi best, and hoep in tiem to be whut muther is."

Amy spoek urnestly, and Jo sed, with a corjal hug,—

"I understand now whut U meen, and I'll never laf at U again. U ar geting on faster than U think, and I'll taek lesons of U in troo polietnes, for U've lurnd th seecret, I beleev. Tri away, deary; U'll get yuur reword sum dae, and no wun wil be mor delieted than I shal."

A week laeter Amy did get her reword, and puur Jo found it hard to be delieted. A leter caem from Ant Carrol, and Mrs. March's faess wuz iloominaeted to such a degree, when she red it, that Jo and Beth, hoo wer with her, demanded whut th glad tidings wer.

375 "Ant Carrol is going abraud next munth, and wonts—"

"Me to go with her!" burst in Jo, flieing out of her chaer in an uncontroelabl rapcher.

"No, deer, not U; it's Amy."

"O muther! she's too yung; it's mi turn furst. I've wontedw it so long—it wuud do me so much guud, and be so aultogether splendid—I must go."

"I'm afraed it's imposibl, Jo. Ant sez Amy, decidedly, and it is not for us to diktaet when she ofers such a faevor."

"It's aulwaes so. Amy has all th fun and I hav all th wurk. It isn't faer, o, it isn't faer!" cried Jo pashonatly.

"I'm afraed it is partly yuur oen fault, deer. When Ant spoek to me th uther dae, she regreted yuur blunt maners and too independent spirit; and heer she riets, as if qoeting sumthing U had sed,—'I pland at furst to ask Jo; but as "faevors burden her," and she "haets French," I think I wun't venture to inviet her. Amy is mor docile, wil maek a guud companyon for Flo, and reseev graetfuly any help th trip mae giv her.'"

"O, mi tung, mi abominabl tung! whi can't I lurn to keep it qieet?" groend Jo, remembering wurds which had been her undoing. When she had hurd th explanaeshon of th qoeted phrases, Mrs. March sed sorroefuly,—

"I wish U cuud hav gon, but thaer is no hoep of it this tiem; so tri to baer it cheerfuly, and don't sadden Amy's plezher by reproeches or regrets."

"I'll tri," sed Jo, winking hard, as she knelt doun to pik up th basket she had joyfuly upset. "I'll taek a leef out of her book, and tri not oenly to seem glad, but to be so, and not gruj her wun mienuet of hapynes; but it wun't be eezy, for it is a dredful disapointment;" and puur Jo bedewed th litl fat pincuushon she held with several verry biter teers.

"Jo, deer, I'm verry selfish, but I couldn't spaer U, and I'm glad U ar not going qiet yet," whisperd Beth, embracing her, basket and all, with such a clinging tuch and luving faess, that Jo felt cumforted in spiet of th sharp regret that maed her wont to box her oen eers, and humbly beg Ant Carrol to burden her with this faevor, and see how graetfuly she wuud baer it.

376 By th tiem Amy caem in, Jo wuz aebl to taek her part in th family joobilaeshon; not qiet as hartily as uezhual, perhaps, but without repinings at Amy's guud forchun. Th yung laedy herself reseevd th nues as tidings of graet joy, went about in a solem sort of rapcher, and began to sort her culors and pak her pensils that evening, leeving such trifles as cloeths, muny, and passports to thoes les absorbd in vizhons of art than herself.

"It isn't a meer plezher trip to me, gurls," she sed impresivly, as she scraept her best palette. "It wil desied mi career; for if I hav any jeenyus, I shal fiend it out in Rome, and wil do sumthing to proov it."

"Supoez U haeven't?" sed Jo, soeing away, with red ies, at th nue collars which wer to be handed oever to Amy.

"Then I shal cum hoem and teech drawing for mi living," replied th aspirant for faem, with philosophic composure; but she maed a rie faess at th prospekt, and scracht away at her palette as if bent on vigorus mezhers befor she gaev up her hoeps.

"No, U wun't; U haet hard wurk, and U'll marry sum rich man, and cum hoem to sit in th lap of lukshery all yuur daes," sed Jo.

"Yuur predictions sumtiems cum to pas, but I don't beleev that wun wil. I'm shuur I wish it wuud, for if I can't be an artist mieself, I should liek to be aebl to help thoes hoo ar," sed Amy, smieling, as if th part of Laedy Bountiful wuud suit her beter than that of a puur drawing-teecher.

"Hum!" sed Jo, with a sie; "if U wish it U'll hav it, for yuur wishes ar aulwaes granted—mien never."

"Wuud U liek to go?" askt Amy, thautfuly pating her noez with her nief.

"Rather!"

"Wel, in a yeer or too I'll send for U, and we'll dig in th Forum for reliks, and carry out all th plans we've maed so meny times."

"Thank U; I'll remiend U of yuur promis when that joyful dae cums, if it ever duz," returnd Jo, accepting th vaeg but magnifisent ofer as graetfuly as she cuud.

377 Thaer wuz not much tiem for preparaeshon, and th hous wuz in a furment till Amy wuz off. Jo bor up verry wel till th last flutter of bloo ribon vanisht, when she retierd to her refuej, th garret, and cried till she couldn't cri any mor. Amy liekwiez bor up stoutly till th steemer saeld; then, just as th ganwae wuz about to be withdrawn, it sudenly caem oever her that a hoel oeshan wuz soon to roel between her and thoes hoo luvd her best, and she clung to Laurie, th last linggerer, saeing with a sob,—

"O, taek caer of them for me; and if anything should hapen—"

"I wil, deer, I wil; and if anything happens, I'll cum and cumfort U," whisperd Laurie, litl dreeming that he wuud be called upon to keep his wurd.

So Amy saeld away to fiend th oeld wurld, which is aulwaes nue and buetiful to yung ies, whiel her faather and frend wocht her from th shor, furvently hoeping that nun but jentl forchuns wuud befall th hapy-hearted gurl, hoo waevd her hand to them till thae cuud see nuthing but th sumer sunshine dazling on th see.

Tail-piece

XXXI. Our Forin Corespondent.

378

Flo and I ordered a hansom-cab

XXXI.

OUR Forin Corespondent.

"London.

"Deerest Peepl,—

"Heer I reealy sit at a frunt windo of th Bath Hoetel, Piccadilly. It's not a fashonabl plaess, but unkl stopt heer yeers ago, and wun't go anywhere else; however, we don't meen to stae long, so it's no graet mater. O, I can't begin to tel U how I enjoy it all! I never can, so I'll oenly giv U bits out of mi noet-book, for I've dun nuthing but skech and scribl sinss I started.

"I sent a lien from Halifax, when I felt prity mizerabl, but after that I got on delietfuly, seldom il, on dek all dae, with plenty of plezant peepl to amuez me. Every wun wuz verry kiend to me, especially th ofisers. Don't laf, Jo; jentlmen reealy ar verry 379 nesesaery abord ship, to hoeld on to, or to waet upon wun; and as thae hav nuthing to do, it's a mursy to maek them uesful, utherwiez thae wuud smoek themselvs to deth, I'm afraed.

Every one was very kind
"Every wun wuz verry kiend, especially th ofisers."—Paej 378.

"Ant and Flo wer poorly all th wae, and liked to be let aloen, so when I had dun whut I cuud for them, I went and enjoyd mieself. Such wauks on dek, such sunsets, such splendid aer and waevs! It wuz aulmoest as exsieting as rieding a fast horss, when we went rushing on so grandly. I wish Beth cuud hav cum, it wuud hav dun her so much guud; as for Jo, she wuud hav gon up and sat on th maen-top jib, or whotever th hie thing is called, maed frends with th enjineers, and tooted on th capten's speeking-trumpet, she'd hav been in such a staet of rapcher.

"It wuz all hevenly, but I wuz glad to see th Irish coest, and found it verry luvly, so green and suny, with broun cabins heer and thaer, rooins on sum of th hils, and jentlmen's cuntry-seets in th valys, with deer feeding in th parks. It wuz eerly in th morning, but I didn't regret geting up to see it, for th bae wuz fuul of litl boets, th shor so picturesque, and a roezy ski oeverhed. I never shal forget it.

"At Queenstown wun of mi nue acquaintances left us,—Mr. Lennox,—and when I sed sumthing about th Laeks of Killarney, he sighed and sung, with a luuk at me,—

'O, hav U e'er hurd of Kate Kearney?

She lievs on th banks of Killarney;

From th glanss of her ie,

Shun daenjer and fli,

For faetal's th glanss of Kate Kearney.'

Wasn't that nonsensikal?

"We oenly stopt at Liverpool a fue ours. It's a durty, noizy plaess, and I wuz glad to leev it. Unkl rusht out and bought a paer of dog-skin gluvs, sum ugly, thik shoos, and an umbrela, and got shaevd à laa muton-chop, th furst thing. Then he flaterd himself that he luukt liek a troo Briton; but th furst tiem he had th mud cleend off his shoos, th litl bootblack knew that an American stuud in them, and sed, with a grin, 'Thaer yer har, sur. I've giv 'em 380 th laetest Yankee shien.' It amuezd unkl imensly. O, I must tel U whut that absurd Lennox did! He got his frend Word, hoo caem on with us, to order a bouquet for me, and th furst thing I saw in mi room wuz a luvly wun, with 'Robert Lennox's compliments,' on th card. Wasn't that fun, gurls? I liek travelling.

"I never shal get to London if I don't hurry. Th trip wuz liek rieding thru a long pikcher-galery, fuul of luvly landscaeps. Th farmhouzes wer mi deliet; with thacht roofs, ievy up to th eevs, latist windoes, and stout wimen with roezy children at th dors. Th verry catl luukt mor tranquil than ours, as thae stuud nee-deep in cloever, and th hens had a contented cluk, as if thae never got nurvus, liek Yankee biddies. Such perfect culor I never saw,—th gras so green, ski so bloo, graen so yelo, wuuds so dark,—I wuz in a rapcher all th wae. So wuz Flo; and we kept bounsing from wun sied to th uther, trieing to see everything whiel we wer whisking along at th raet of sixty miels an our. Ant wuz tierd and went to sleep, but unkl red his gied-book, and wouldn't be astonisht at anything. This is th wae we went on: Amy, flieing up,—'O, that must be Kenilworth, that grae plaess amung th trees!' Flo, darting to mi windo,—'How sweet! We must go thaer sum tiem, wun't we, papa?' Unkl, calmly admiering his boots,—'No, mi deer, not unles U wont beer; that's a brooery.'

"A pause,—then Flo cried out, 'Bles me, thaer's a galoes and a man going up.' 'Whaer, whaer?' shreeks Amy, staering out at too taul poests with a cros-beem and sum dangling chaens. 'A colliery,' remarks unkl, with a twinkle of th ie. 'Heer's a luvly flok of lams all lieing doun,' sez Amy. 'See, papa, aren't thae prity!' aded Flo sentimentaly. 'Geess, yung laedys,' returns unkl, in a toen that keeps us qieet till Flo setls doun to enjoy 'Th Flurtaeshons of Capt. Cavendish,' and I hav th seenery all to mieself.

"Of corss it raend when we got to London, and thaer wuz nuthing to be seen but fog and umbrelas. We rested, unpakt, and shopt a litl between th showers. Ant Mary got me sum nue things, for I caem off in such a hurry I wasn't haf redy. A whiet hat and bloo fether, a muzlin dres to mach, and th luvyest mantl U ever saw. Shoping in Reejent Street is perfectly splendid; 381 things seem so cheep—niess ribons oenly sixpence a yard. I laed in a stok, but shal get mi gluvs in Paris. Doesn't that sound sort of elegant and rich?

"Flo and I, for th fun of it, orderd a hansom cab, whiel ant and unkl wer out, and went for a driev, tho we lurnd afterward that it wasn't th thing for yung laedys to ried in them aloen. It wuz so droel! for when we wer shut in by th wuuden apron, th man droev so fast that Flo wuz frietend, and toeld me to stop him. But he wuz up outsied behind sumwhaer, and I couldn't get at him. He didn't heer me call, nor see me flap mi parasol in frunt, and thaer we wer, qiet helples, ratling away, and whurling around corners at a braek-nek paess. At last, in mi despaer, I saw a litl dor in th roof, and on poeking it oepen, a red ie apeerd, and a beery vois sed,—

"'Now then, mum?'

"I gaev mi order as soeberly as I cuud, and slaming doun th dor, with an 'Aye, aye, mum,' th man maed his horss wauk, as if going to a fueneral. I poekt again, and sed, 'A litl faster;' then off he went, helter-skelter, as befor, and we reziend ourselvs to our faet.

"To-dae wuz faer and we went to Hyde Park, cloez by, for we ar mor aristocratic than we luuk. Th Duek of Devonshire lievs neer. I ofen see his fuutmen lounging at th bak gaet; and th Duek of Wellington's hous is not far off. Such siets as I saw, mi deer! It wuz as guud as Punch, for thaer wer fat dowagers roeling about in thaer red and yelo coeches, with gorjus Jeameses in silk stokings and velvet coets, up behind, and pouderd coachmen in frunt. Smart maeds, with th roezyest children I ever saw; handsum gurls, luuking haf asleep; dandies, in qeer English hats and lavender kid, lounging about, and taul soeljers, in short red jakets and mufin caps stuk on wun sied, luuking so funy I longed to skech them.

"Roten Row (noun) means 'Root de Roi,' or th king's wae; but now it's mor liek a rieding-scool than anything else. Th horses ar splendid, and th men, especially th grooms, ried wel; but th wimen ar stif, and bounss, which isn't acording to our rools. I longed to sho them a teering American galop, for thae trotted solemly up and doun, in thaer scant habits and hie hats, luuking liek th wimen 382 in a toy Noah's Ark. Every wun rieds,—oeld men, stout laedys, litl children,—and th yung foeks do a deel of flurting heer; I saw a paer exchange roezbuds, for it's th thing to waer wun in th buton-hoel, and I thaut it rather a niess litl iedeea.

"In th p.m. to Westminster Aby; but don't expect me to descrieb it, that's imposibl—so I'll oenly sae it wuz subliem! This evening we ar going to see Fechter, which wil be an aproepriat end to th hapyest dae of mi lief.


"Midniet.

"It's verry laet, but I can't let mi leter go in th morning without teling U whut happened last evening. Hoo do U think caem in, as we wer at tee? Laurie's English frends, Fred and Frank Vaughn! I wuz so serpriezd, for I shouldn't hav noen them but for th cards. Boeth ar taul feloes, with whiskers; Fred handsum in th English stiel, and Frank much beter, for he oenly limps slietly, and uezes no cruches. Thae had hurd from Laurie whaer we wer to be, and caem to ask us to thaer hous; but unkl wun't go, so we shal return th call, and see them as we can. Thae went to th theeater with us, and we did hav such a guud tiem, for Frank devoeted himself to Flo, and Fred and I taukt oever past, prezent, and fuecher fun as if we had noen eech uther all our daes. Tel Beth Frank askt for her, and wuz sorry to heer of her il helth. Fred laft when I spoek of Jo, and sent his 'respektful compliments to th big hat.' Neether of them had forgoten Camp Laurence, or th fun we had thaer. Whut aejes ago it seems, doesn't it?

"Ant is taping on th waul for th thurd tiem, so I must stop. I reealy feel liek a dissipated London fien laedy, rieting heer so laet, with mi room fuul of prity things, and mi hed a jumbl of parks, theeaters, nue gouns, and galant creechers hoo sae 'Ah!' and twirl thaer blond mustashes with th troo English lordliness. I long to see U all, and in spiet of mi nonsenss am, as ever, yuur luving

Amy."


"Paris"

"Deer Gurls,—

"In mi last I toeld U about our London vizit,—how kiend th Vaughns wer, and whut plezant partys thae maed for us. I enjoyd th trips to Hampton Cort and th Kensington Muezeeum 383 mor than anything else,—for at Hampton I saw Raphael's cartoons, and, at th Muezeeum, rooms fuul of pikchers by Turner, Lawrence, Reynolds, Hogarth, and th uther graet creechers. Th dae in Richmond Park wuz charming, for we had a reguelar English picnic, and I had mor splendid oeks and groops of deer than I cuud copy; aulso hurd a nietinggael, and saw larks go up. We 'did' London to our harts' content, thanks to Fred and Frank, and wer sorry to go away; for, tho English peepl ar slo to taek U in, when thae wunss maek up thaer miends to do it thae cannot be outdun in hospitality, I think. Th Vaughns hoep to meet us in Rome next winter, and I shal be dredfuly disapointed if thae don't, for Graess and I ar graet frends, and th boys verry niess feloes,—especially Fred.

"Wel, we wer hardly setld heer, when he turnd up again, saeing he had cum for a holidae, and wuz going to Switzerland. Ant luukt soeber at furst, but he wuz so cool about it she couldn't sae a wurd; and now we get on niesly, and ar verry glad he caem, for he speeks French liek a naetiv, and I don't noe whut we should do without him. Unkl doesn't noe ten wurds, and insists on tauking English verry loud, as if that wuud maek peepl understand him. Ant's pronunciation is oeld-fashond, and Flo and I, tho we flaterd ourselvs that we knew a guud deel, fiend we don't, and ar verry graetful to hav Fred do th 'parley vooing,' as unkl calls it.

"Such delietful times as we ar having! siet-seeing from morning till niet, stoping for niess lunches in th gae cafés, and meeting with all sorts of droel advenchers. Raeny daes I spend in th Louvre, reveling in pikchers. Jo wuud turn up her nauty noez at sum of th fienest, because she has no soel for art; but I hav, and I'm cultivaeting ie and taest as fast as I can. She wuud liek th reliks of graet peepl beter, for I've seen her Napoleon's cokt hat and grae coet, his baeby's craedl and his oeld toothbrush; aulso Marie Antoinette's litl shoo, th ring of Saent Denis, Charlemagne's sord, and meny uther interesting things. I'll tauk for ours about them when I cum, but haeven't tiem to riet.

"Th Palais Royale is a hevenly plaess,—so fuul of bijouterie and luvly things that I'm neerly distracted because I can't bie them. 384 Fred wontedw to get me sum, but of corss I didn't alow it. Then th Bois and th Champs Elysées ar très magnifique. I've seen th impeerial family several times,—th emperor an ugly, hard-luuking man, th empress pale and prity, but drest in bad taest, I thaut,—purpl dres, green hat, and yelo gluvs. Litl Nap. is a handsum boy, hoo sits chating to his tuetor, and kises his hand to th peepl as he pases in his foer-horss barouche, with postilions in red satin jakets, and a mounted gard befor and behind.

I've seen the imperial family several times

"We ofen wauk in th Tuileries Gardens, for thae ar luvly, tho th anteek Luxembourg Gardens suit me beter. Père laa Shaez is verry cuerius, for meny of th tooms ar liek small rooms, and, luuking in, wun sees a taebl, with imejes or pikchers of th ded, and chaers for th morners to sit in when thae cum to lament. That is so Frenchy.

"Our rooms ar on th Rue de Rivoli, and, sitting in th balcony, we luuk up and doun th long, brilliant street. It is so plezant that we spend our evenings tauking thaer, when too tierd with our dae's wurk to go out. Fred is verry entertaining, and is aultogether 385 th moest agreeabl yung man I ever knew,—exsept Laurie, hoos maners ar mor charming. I wish Fred wuz dark, for I don't fansy liet men; however, th Vaughns ar verry rich, and cum of an exselent family, so I wun't fiend fault with thaer yelo haer, as mi oen is yellower.

"Next week we ar off to Germany and Switzerland; and, as we shal travel fast, I shal oenly be aebl to giv U hasty leters. I keep mi dieary, and tri to 'remember correctly and descrieb cleerly all that I see and admier,' as faather advised. It is guud praktis for me, and, with mi skech-book, wil giv U a beter iedeea of mi tour than thees scribls.

"Adieu; I embrace U tenderly.

Votre Amie."


"Heidelberg.

"Mi deer Maama,—

"Having a qieet our befor we leev for Berne, I'll tri to tel U whut has happened, for sum of it is verry important, as U wil see.

"Th sael up th Rhine wuz perfect, and I just sat and enjoyd it with all mi miet. Get faather's oeld gied-books, and red about it; I haeven't wurds buetiful enough to descrieb it. At Coblentz we had a luvly tiem, for sum stoodents from Bonn, with hoom Fred got aqaented on th boet, gaev us a serenaed. It wuz a moonliet niet, and, about wun o'clok, Flo and I wer waekt by th moest delicious muezik under our windoes. We floo up, and hid behind th curtens; but sli peeps shoed us Fred and th stoodents singing away doun beloe. It wuz th moest roemantik thing I ever saw,—th river, th bridge of boets, th graet fortres opozit, moonliet everywhaer, and muezik fit to melt a hart of stoen.

"When thae wer dun we throo doun sum flowers, and saw them scrambl for them, kis thaer hands to th invizibl laedys, and go lafing away,—to smoek and drink beer, I supoez. Next morning Fred shoed me wun of th crumpld flowers in his vest-poket, and luukt verry sentimental. I laft at him, and sed I didn't thro it, but Flo, which seemd to disgust him, for he tost it out of th windo, and turnd sensibl again. I'm afraed I'm going to hav trubl with that boy, it begins to luuk liek it.

386 "Th baths at Nassau wer verry gae, so wuz Baden-Baden, whaer Fred lost sum muny, and I scoelded him. He needs sum wun to luuk after him when Frank is not with him. Kate sed wunss she hoept he'd marry soon, and I qiet agree with her that it wuud be wel for him. Frankfort wuz delietful; I saw Goethe's hous, Schiller's stachoo, and Dannecker's faemus 'Ariadne.' It wuz verry luvly, but I should hav enjoyd it mor if I had noen th story beter. I didn't liek to ask, as every wun knew it, or pretended thae did. I wish Jo wuud tel me all about it; I aut to hav red mor, for I fiend I don't noe anything, and it mortifies me.

"Now cums th seerius part,—for it happened heer, and Fred is just gon. He has been so kiend and joly that we all got qiet fond of him; I never thaut of anything but a travelling frendship, till th serenaed niet. Sinss then I've begun to feel that th moonliet wauks, balcony tauks, and daily advenchers wer sumthing mor to him than fun. I haeven't flurted, muther, truly, but rememberd whut U sed to me, and hav dun mi verry best. I can't help it if peepl liek me; I don't tri to maek them, and it wurys me if I don't caer for them, tho Jo sez I haeven't got any hart. Now I noe muther wil shaek her hed, and th gurls sae, 'O, th mursenaery litl rech!' but I've maed up mi miend, and, if Fred asks me, I shal accept him, tho I'm not madly in luv. I liek him, and we get on comfortably together. He is handsum, yung, clever enough, and verry rich,—ever so much richer than th Laurences. I don't think his family wuud objekt, and I should be verry hapy, for thae ar all kiend, wel-bred, jenerus peepl, and thae liek me. Fred, as th eldest twin, wil hav th estate, I supoez, and such a splendid wun as it is! A sity hous in a fashonabl street, not so shoey as our big houses, but twice as comfortable, and fuul of solid lukshery, such as English peepl beleev in. I liek it, for it's jenuein. I've seen th plaet, th family jooels, th oeld survants, and pikchers of th cuntry plaess, with its park, graet hous, luvly grounds, and fien horses. O, it wuud be all I should ask! and I'd rather hav it than any tietl such as gurls snap up so redily, and fiend nuthing behind. I mae be mursenaery, but I haet poverty, and don't meen to baer it a mienuet longer than I can help. Wun of us must marry wel; 387 Meg didn't, Jo wun't, Beth can't yet, so I shal, and maek everything cosey all round. I wouldn't marry a man I haeted or despiezd. U mae be shuur of that; and, tho Fred is not mi model heero, he duz verry wel, and, in tiem, I should get fond enough of him if he wuz verry fond of me, and let me do just as I liked. So I've been turning th mater oever in mi miend th last week, for it wuz imposibl to help seeing that Fred liked me. He sed nuthing, but litl things shoed it; he never goes with Flo, aulwaes gets on mi sied of th carrej, taebl, or promenade, luuks sentimental when we ar aloen, and frouns at any wun else hoo ventures to speek to me. Yesterdae, at diner, when an Austrian ofiser staerd at us, and then sed sumthing to his frend,—a raekish-luuking baron,—about 'ein wonderschönes Blöndchen,' Fred luukt as feerss as a lieon, and cut his meet so savejly, it neerly floo off his plaet. He isn't wun of th cool, stif Englishmen, but is rather pepery, for he has Scotch blud in him, as wun miet ges from his bonnie bloo ies.

Trying to sketch the gray-stone lion's head on the wall

"Wel, last evening we went up to th casl about sunset,—at leest all of us but Fred, hoo wuz to meet us thaer, after going to th Poest Restante for leters. We had a charming tiem poeking about th rooins, th vaults whaer th monster tun is, and th buetiful gardens maed by th elector, long ago, for his English wief. I liked th graet terris best, for th vue wuz divine; so, whiel th rest went to see th rooms insied, I sat thaer trieing to skech th grae stoen lieon's hed on th waul, with scarlet wuudbien spraes hanging round it. I felt as if I'd got into a roemanss, sitting thaer, woching th Neckar roeling thru th valy, lisening to th muezik of th Austrian band beloe, and waeting for mi luver, liek a 388 reeal story-book gurl. I had a feeling that sumthing wuz going to hapen, and I wuz redy for it. I didn't feel blushy or quakey, but qiet cool, and oenly a litl exsieted.

"By and by I hurd Fred's vois, and then he caem hurying thru th graet arch to fiend me. He luukt so trubld that I forgot all about mieself, and askt whut th mater wuz. He sed he'd just got a leter beging him to cum hoem, for Frank wuz verry il; so he wuz going at wunss, in th niet traen, and oenly had tiem to sae guud-by. I wuz verry sorry for him, and disapointed for mieself, but oenly for a mienuet, because he sed, as he shuuk hands,—and sed it in a wae that I cuud not mistaek,—'I shal soon cum bak; U wun't forget me, Amy?'

"I didn't promis, but I luukt at him, and he seemd satisfied, and thaer wuz no tiem for anything but mesejes and guud-byes, for he wuz off in an our, and we all mis him verry much. I noe he wontedw to speek, but I think, from sumthing he wunss hinted, that he had promist his faather not to do anything of th sort yet awhile, for he is a rash boy, and th oeld jentlman dreds a forin dauter-in-law. We shal soon meet in Rome; and then, if I don't chaenj mi miend, I'll sae 'Yes, thank U,' when he sez 'Wil U, pleez?'

"Of corss this is all verry private, but I wisht U to noe whut wuz going on. Don't be anxious about me; remember I am yuur 'proodent Amy,' and be shuur I wil do nuthing rashly. Send me as much advice as U liek; I'll uez it if I can. I wish I cuud see U for a guud tauk, Marmee. Luv and trust me.

"Ever yuur

Amy."


XXXII. Tender Trubls.

389

XXXII.

TENDER Trubls.

"Jo, I'm anxious about Beth."

"Whi, muther, she has seemd unuezhualy wel sinss th baebys caem."

"It's not her helth that trubls me now; it's her spirits. I'm shuur thaer is sumthing on her miend, and I wont U to discuver whut it is."

"Whut maeks U think so, muther?"

"She sits aloen a guud deel, and doesn't tauk to her faather as much as she uezd. I found her crieing oever th baebys th uther dae. When she sings, th songs ar aulwaes sad wuns, and now and then I see a luuk in her faess that I don't understand. This isn't liek Beth, and it wurys me."

"Hav U askt her about it?"

"I hav tried wunss or twice; but she eether evaeded mi qeschons, or luukt so distressed that I stopt. I never forss mi children's confidenss, and I seldom hav to waet for it long."

Mrs. March glanst at Jo as she spoek, but th faess opozit seemd qiet unconshus of any seecret disquietude but Beth's; and, after soeing thautfuly for a mienuet, Jo sed,—

"I think she is groeing up, and so begins to dreem dreems, and hav hoeps and feers and fijets, without noeing whi, or being aebl to explaen them. Whi, muther, Beth's aeteen, but we don't reealiez it, and treat her liek a chield, forgeting she's a wuuman."

"So she is. Deer hart, how fast U do gro up," returnd her muther, with a sie and a smiel.

" 390 Can't be helpt, Marmee, so U must rezien yuurself to all sorts of wurys, and let yuur burds hop out of th nest, wun by wun. I promis never to hop verry far, if that is any cumfort to U."

"It is a graet cumfort, Jo; I aulwaes feel strong when U ar at hoem, now Meg is gon. Beth is too feebl and Amy too yung to depend upon; but when th tug cums, U ar aulwaes redy."

"Whi, U noe I don't miend hard jobs much, and thaer must aulwaes be wun scrub in a family. Amy is splendid in fien wurks, and I'm not; but I feel in mi element when all th carpets ar to be taeken up, or haf th family faul sik at wunss. Amy is distingwishing herself abraud; but if anything is amis at hoem, I'm yuur man."

"I leev Beth to yuur hands, then, for she wil oepen her tender litl hart to her Jo sooner than to any wun else. Be verry kiend, and don't let her think any wun woches or tauks about her. If she oenly wuud get qiet strong and cheerful again, I shouldn't hav a wish in th wurld."

"Hapy wuuman! I've got heeps."

"Mi deer, whut ar thae?"

"I'll setl Bethy's trubls, and then I'll tel U mien. Thae ar not verry waering, so thae'll keep;" and Jo stitched away, with a wiez nod which set her muther's hart at rest about her, for th prezent at leest.

Whiel apparently absorbd in her oen affairs, Jo wocht Beth; and, after meny conflikting conjectures, fienaly setld upon wun which seemd to explaen th chaenj in her. A sliet insident gaev Jo th cloo to th mistery, she thaut, and lievly fansy, luving hart did th rest. She wuz affecting to riet busily wun Saturday afternoon, when she and Beth wer aloen together; yet as she scribld, she kept her ie on her sister, hoo seemd unuezhualy qieet. Sitting at th windo, Beth's wurk ofen dropt into her lap, and she leend her hed upon her hand, in a dejekted atitued, whiel her ies rested on th dul, autumnal landscaep. Sudenly sum wun past beloe, whisling liek an operatik blakburd, and a vois called out,—

She leaned her head upon her hands

"All sereen! Cuming in to-niet."

Beth started, leend forward, smield and noded, wocht th 391 passer-by till his qik tramp died away, then sed softly, as if to herself,—

"How strong and wel and hapy that deer boy luuks."

"Hum!" sed Jo, still intent upon her sister's faess; for th briet culor faeded as qikly as it caem, th smiel vanisht, and prezently a teer lae shiening on th windo-ledge. Beth whiskt it off, and glanst aprehensivly at Jo; but she wuz scraching away at a tremendous raet, apparently engroest in "Olympia's Oeth." Th instant Beth turnd, Jo began her woch again, saw Beth's hand go qieetly to her ies mor than wunss, and, in her haf-avurted faess, red a tender sorro that maed her oen ies fil. Feering to betrae herself, she slipt away, murmering sumthing about needing mor paeper.

392 "Mursy on me, Beth luvs Laurie!" she sed, sitting doun in her oen room, pale with th shok of th discuvery which she beleevd she had just maed. "I never drempt of such a thing. Whut wil muther sae? I wunder if he—" thaer Jo stopt, and turnd scarlet with a suden thaut. "If he shouldn't luv bak again, how dredful it wuud be. He must; I'll maek him!" and she shuuk her hed threteningly at th pikcher of th mischivus-luuking boy lafing at her from th waul. "O deer, we ar groeing up with a venjenss. Heer's Meg marryd and a maama, Amy flurishing away at Paris, and Beth in luv. I'm th oenly wun that has senss enough to keep out of mischif." Jo thaut intently for a mienuet, with her ies fixed on th pikcher; then she smoothd out her rinkld forhed, and sed, with a desieded nod at th faess opozit, "No, thank U, sur; U're verry charming, but U've no mor stability than a wethercok; so U needn't riet tuching noets, and smiel in that insinueaeting wae, for it wun't do a bit of guud, and I wun't hav it."

Then she sighed, and fel into a reverie, from which she did not waek till th eerly twilight sent her doun to taek nue obzervaeshons, which oenly confurmd her suspishon. Tho Laurie flurted with Amy and joekt with Jo, his maner to Beth had aulwaes been peculiarly kiend and jentl, but so wuz everybody's; thaerfor, no wun thaut of imajining that he caerd mor for her than for th others. Indeed, a jeneral impreshon had prevaeld in th family, of laet, that "our boy" wuz geting fonder than ever of Jo, hoo, however, wouldn't heer a wurd upon th subjekt, and scoelded vieolently if any wun dared to sugjest it. If thae had noen th vaerius tender pasejes of th past yeer, or rather atempts at tender pasejes which had been nipt in th bud, thae wuud hav had th imenss satisfakshon of saeing, "I toeld U so." But Jo haeted "philandering," and wouldn't alow it, aulwaes having a joek or a smiel redy at th leest sien of impending daenjer.

When Laurie furst went to colej, he fel in luv about wunss a munth; but thees small flaems wer as brief as ardent, did no damej, and much amuezd Jo, hoo tuuk graet interest in th aulternaeshons of hoep, despaer, and rezignaeshon, which wer confieded to her in 393 thaer weekly conferences. But thaer caem a tiem when Laurie seest to wurship at meny shriens, hinted darkly at wun all-absorbing pashon, and induljd ocaezhonaly in Byronic fits of gloom. Then he avoided th tender subjekt aultogether, roet philosophical noets to Jo, turnd stoodius, and gaev out that he wuz going to "dig," intending to grajuaet in a blaez of glory. This suited th yung laedy beter than twilight confidenses, tender preshers of th hand, and eloquent glanses of th ie; for with Jo, braen developt urlyer than hart, and she prefurd imajinarry heroes to reeal wuns, because, when tierd of them, th former cuud be shut up in th tin-kichen till called for, and th later wer les manejabl.

Things wer in this staet when th grand discuvery wuz maed, and Jo wocht Laurie that niet as she had never dun befor. If she had not got th nue iedeea into her hed, she wuud hav seen nuthing uenuezhual in th fakt that Beth wuz verry qieet, and Laurie verry kiend to her. But having given th raen to her lievly fansy, it galopt away with her at a graet paess; and common senss, being rather weekend by a long corss of roemanss rieting, did not cum to th rescue. As uezhual, Beth lae on th soefa, and Laurie sat in a loe chaer cloez by, amuezing her with all sorts of gosip; for she depended on her weekly "spin," and he never disapointed her. But that evening, Jo fansyd that Beth's ies rested on th lievly, dark faess besied her with peculiar plezher, and that she lisend with intenss interest to an account of sum exsieting criket-mach, tho th phrases, "caut off a tice," "stumpt off his ground," and "th leg hit for three," wer as intelijibl to her as Sanscrit. She aulso fansyd, having set her hart upon seeing it, that she saw a surten increess of jentlnes in Laurie's maner, that he dropt his vois now and then, laft les than uezhual, wuz a litl absent-miended, and setld th afghan oever Beth's feet with an assiduity that wuz reealy aulmoest tender.

"Hoo noes? straenjer things hav happened," thaut Jo, as she fust about th room. "She wil maek qiet an aenjel of him, and he wil maek lief delietfuly eezy and plezant for th deer, if thae oenly luv eech uther. I don't see how he can help it; and I do beleev he wuud if th rest of us wer out of th wae."

As every wun wuz out of th wae but herself, Jo began to feel that 394 she aut to dispoez of herself with all speed. But whaer should she go? and burning to lae herself upon th shrien of sisterly devoeshon, she sat doun to setl that pointer.

Now, th oeld soefa wuz a reguelar patriarch of a soefa,—long, braud, wel-cuushond, and loe; a trifle shaby, as wel it miet be, for th gurls had slept and sprawled on it as baebys, fished oever th bak, roed on th arms, and had menajerys under it as children, and rested tierd heds, dreemd dreems, and lisend to tender tauk on it as yung wimen. Thae all luvd it, for it wuz a family refuej, and wun corner had aulwaes been Jo's faevorit lounging-plaess. Amung th meny piloes that adornd th venerable couch wuz wun, hard, round, cuverd with prickly hors-haer, and furnisht with a noby buton at eech end; this repulsiv pilo wuz her especial property, being uezd as a wepon of defence, a barricade, or a sturn preventive of too much slumber.

Laurie knew this pilo wel, and had cauz to regard it with deep avurzhon, having been unmercifully pummelled with it in former daes, when romping wuz alowd, and now freeqently debard by it from taeking th seet he moest cuveted, next to Jo in th soefa corner. If "th sausej" as thae called it, stuud on end, it wuz a sien that he miet approach and repoez; but if it lae flat acros th soefa, wo to th man, wuuman, or chield hoo dared disturb it! That evening Jo forgot to barricade her corner, and had not been in her seet fiev minits, befor a masiv form apeerd besied her, and, with boeth arms spred oever th soefa-bak, boeth long legs strecht out befor him, Laurie exclaemd, with a sie of satisfakshon,—

"Now, this is filing at th priess."

Now, this is filling at the price

"No slang," snapt Jo, slaming doun th pilo. But it wuz too laet, thaer wuz no room for it; and, coesting on to th flor, it disapeerd in a moest misteerius maner.

"Cum, Jo, don't be thorny. After studying himself to a skeleton all th week, a felo dezurvs peting, and aut to get it."

"Beth wil pet U; I'm busy."

"No, she's not to be botherd with me; but U liek that sort of thing, unles U've sudenly lost yuur taest for it. Hav U? Do U haet yuur boy, and wont to fier piloes at him?"

395 Anything mor wheedlesome than that tuching apeel wuz seldom hurd, but Jo qencht "her boy" by turning on him with th sturn qeery,—

"How meny bouquets hav U sent Mis Randal this week?"

"Not wun, upon mi wurd. She's engaejd. Now then."

"I'm glad of it; that's wun of yuur foolish extravagances,—sending flowers and things to gurls for hoom U don't caer too pins," continued Jo reproovingly.

"Sensibl gurls, for hoom I do caer hoel paepers of pins, wun't let me send them 'flowers and things,' so whut can I do? Mi feelings must hav a went."

"Muther doesn't aproov of flurting, eeven in fun; and U do flurt desperatly, Teddy."

"I'd giv anything if I cuud anser, 'So do U.' As I can't, I'll meerly sae that I don't see any harm in that plezant litl gaem, if all partys understand that it's oenly plae."

"Wel, it duz luuk plezant, but I can't lurn how it's dun. I've tried, because wun feels aukward in company, not to do as everybody else is dooing; but I don't seem to get on," sed Jo, forgeting to plae Mentor.

396 "Taek lesons of Amy; she has a reguelar talent for it."

"Yes, she duz it verry pritily, and never seems to go too far. I supoez it's nacheral to sum peepl to pleez without trieing, and others to aulwaes sae and do th rong thing in th rong plaess."

"I'm glad U can't flurt; it's reealy refreshing to see a sensibl, straetforward gurl, hoo can be joly and kiend without maeking a fool of herself. Between ourselvs, Jo, sum of th gurls I noe reealy do go on at such a raet I'm ashamed of them. Thae don't meen any harm, I'm shuur; but if thae knew how we feloes taukt about them afterward, thae'd mend thaer waes, I fansy."

"Thae do th saem; and, as thaer tungs ar th sharpest, U feloes get th wurst of it, for U ar as sily as thae, every bit. If U behaevd properly, thae wuud; but, noeing U liek thaer nonsenss, thae keep it up, and then U blaem them."

"Much U noe about it, maa'am," sed Laurie, in a superior toen. "We don't liek romps and flurts, tho we mae akt as if we did sumtiems. Th prity, modest gurls ar never taukt about, exsept respektfuly, amung jentlmen. Bles yuur inosent soel! If U cuud be in mi plaess for a munth U'd see things that wuud astonish U a trifle. Upon mi wurd, when I see wun of thoes harum-scarum gurls, I aulwaes wont to sae with our frend Cok Robin,—

"'Out upon U, fie upon U,

Boeld-faest jig!'"

It wuz imposibl to help lafing at th funy conflikt between Laurie's chivalrous reluktanss to speek il of wuumankiend, and his verry nacheral disliek of th unfeminine foly of which fashonabl soesieety shoed him meny sampls. Jo knew that "yung Laurence" wuz regarded as a moest eligible parti by wurldly maamas, wuz much smield upon by thaer dauters, and flaterd enough by laedys of all aejes to maek a coxcomb of him; so she wocht him rather jealously, feering he wuud be spoilt, and rejoist mor than she confest to fiend that he still beleevd in modest gurls. Returning sudenly to her admonitory toen, she sed, droping her vois, "If U must hav a 'went,' Teddy, go and devoet yuurself to wun of th 'prity, modest gurls' hoom U do respekt, and not waest yuur tiem with th sily wuns."

397 "U reealy advise it?" and Laurie luukt at her with an od mixcher of anxiety and merriment in his faess.

"Yes, I do; but U'd beter waet till U ar thru colej, on th hoel, and be fitting yuurself for th plaess meentiem. U're not haf guud enough for—wel, hooever th modest gurl mae be," and Jo luukt a litl qeer liekwiez, for a naem had aulmoest escaept her.

"That I'm not!" aqi’est Laurie, with an expreshon of huemility qiet nue to him, as he dropt his ies, and absently woond Jo's apron-tasel round his fingger.

"Mursy on us, this wil never do," thaut Jo; ading aloud, "Go and sing to me. I'm dieing for sum muezik, and aulwaes liek yuurs."

"I'd rather stae heer, thank U."

"Wel, U can't; thaer isn't room. Go and maek yuurself uesful, sinss U ar too big to be ornamental. I thaut U haeted to be tied to a wuuman's apron-string?" retorted Jo, qoeting surten rebelyus wurds of his oen.

"Ah, that depends on hoo waers th apron!" and Laurie gaev an audaeshus tweak at th tasel.

"Ar U going?" demanded Jo, diving for th pilo.

He fled at wunss, and th mienuet it wuz wel "Up with th bonnets of bonnie Dundee," she slipt away, to return no mor till th yung jentlman had departed in hie dujon.

Up with the Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee

Jo lae long awake that niet, and wuz just droping off when th sound of a stifled sob maed her fli to Beth's bedside, with th anxious inqiery, "Whut is it, deer?"

"I thaut U wer asleep," sobd Beth.

"Is it th oeld paen, mi precious?"

"No; it's a nue wun; but I can baer it," and Beth tried to chek her teers.

"Tel me all about it, and let me cuer it as I ofen did th uther."

"U can't; thaer is no cuer." Thaer Beth's vois gaev wae, and, clinging to her sister, she cried so despaeringly that Jo wuz frietend.

"Whaer is it? Shal I call muther?"

398 Beth did not anser th furst qeschon; but in th dark wun hand went involuntarrily to her hart, as if th paen wer thaer; with th uther she held Jo fast, whispering eegerly, "No, no, don't call her, don't tel her. I shal be beter soon. Lie doun heer and 'puur' mi hed. I'll be qieet, and go to sleep; indeed I wil."

Jo oebaed; but as her hand went softly to and fro acros Beth's hot forhed and wet ielids, her hart wuz verry fuul, and she longed to speek. But yung as she wuz, Jo had lurnd that harts, liek flowers, cannot be roodly handld, but must oepen nacheraly; so, tho she beleevd she knew th cauz of Beth's nue paen, she oenly sed, in her tenderest toen, "Duz anything trubl U, deary?"

399 "Yes, Jo," after a long pause.

"Wouldn't it cumfort U to tel me whut it is?"

"Not now, not yet."

"Then I wun't ask; but remember, Bethy, that muther and Jo ar aulwaes glad to heer and help U, if thae can."

"I noe it. I'll tel U by and by."

"Is th paen beter now?"

"O, yes, much beter; U ar so comfortable, Jo!"

"Go to sleep, deer; I'll stae with U."

So cheek to cheek thae fel asleep, and on th morro Beth seemd qiet herself again; for at aeteen, neether heds nor harts aek long, and a luving wurd can medisin moest ils.

But Jo had maed up her miend, and, after pondering oever a projekt for sum daes, she confieded it to her muther.

"U askt me th uther dae whut mi wishes wer. I'll tel U wun of them, Marmee," she began, as thae sat aloen together. "I wont to go away sumwhaer this winter for a chaenj."

"Whi, Jo?" and her muther luukt up qikly, as if th wurds sugjested a dubl meening.

With her ies on her wurk, Jo anserd soeberly, "I wont sumthing nue; I feel restles, and anxious to be seeing, dooing, and lurning mor than I am. I brood too much oever mi oen small affairs, and need sturing up, so, as I can be spaerd this winter, I'd liek to hop a litl wae, and tri mi wings."

"Whaer wil U hop?"

"To Nue York. I had a briet iedeea yesterdae, and this is it. U noe Mrs. Kirke roet to U for sum respektabl yung purson to teech her children and soe. It's rather hard to fiend just th thing, but I think I should suit if I tried."

"Mi deer, go out to survis in that graet boarding-hous!" and Mrs. March luukt serpriezd, but not displeezd.

"It's not exaktly going out to survis; for Mrs. Kirke is yuur frend,—th kiendest soel that ever livd,—and wuud maek things plezant for me, I noe. Her family is separet from th rest, and no wun noes me thaer. Don't caer if thae do; it's onest wurk, and I'm not ashamed of it."

400 "Nor I; but yuur rieting?"

"All th beter for th chaenj. I shal see and heer nue things, get nue iedeeas, and, eeven if I haeven't much tiem thaer, I shal bring hoem qontitys of mateerial for mi rubish."

"I hav no dout of it; but ar thees yuur oenly reezons for this suden fansy?"

"No, muther."

"Mae I noe th others?"

Jo luukt up and Jo luukt doun, then sed sloely, with suden culor in her cheeks, "It mae be vaen and rong to sae it, but—I'm afraed—Laurie is geting too fond of me."

"Then U don't caer for him in th wae it is evident he begins to caer for U?" and Mrs. March luukt anxious as she put th qeschon.

"Mursy, no! I luv th deer boy, as I aulwaes hav, and am imensly proud of him; but as for anything mor, it's out of th qeschon."

"I'm glad of that, Jo."

"Whi, pleez?"

"Because, deer, I don't think U suited to wun anuther. As frends U ar verry hapy, and yuur freeqent qorrels soon blo oever; but I feer U wuud boeth rebl if U wer maeted for lief. U ar too much aliek and too fond of freedom, not to menshon hot tempers and strong wils, to get on hapily together, in a relaeshon which needs infinit paeshenss and forbaeranss, as wel as luv."

"That's just th feeling I had, tho I couldn't expres it. I'm glad U think he is oenly begining to caer for me. It wuud trubl me sadly to maek him unhapy; for I couldn't faul in luv with th deer oeld felo meerly out of gratitood, cuud I?"

"U ar shuur of his feeling for U?"

Th culor deepend in Jo's cheeks, as she anserd, with th luuk of minggld plezher, pride, and paen which yung gurls waer when speeking of furst luvers,—

"I'm afraed it is so, muther; he hasn't sed anything, but he luuks a graet deel. I think I had beter go away befor it cums to anything."

401 "I agree with U, and if it can be manejd U shal go."

Jo luukt releevd, and, after a pause, sed, smieling, "How Mrs. Moffat wuud wunder at yuur wont of manejment, if she knew; and how she wil rejois that Annie still mae hoep."

"Ah, Jo, muthers mae difer in thaer manejment, but th hoep is th saem in all,—th dezier to see thaer children hapy. Meg is so, and I am content with her success. U I leev to enjoy yuur liberty till U tier of it; for oenly then wil U fiend that thaer is sumthing sweeter. Amy is mi cheef caer now, but her guud senss wil help her. For Beth, I indulj no hoeps exsept that she mae be wel. By th wae, she seems brieter this last dae or too. Hav U spoeken to her?"

"Yes; she oend she had a trubl, and promist to tel me by and by. I sed no mor, for I think I noe it;" and Jo toeld her litl story.

Mrs. March shuuk her hed, and did not taek so roemantik a vue of th caess, but luukt graev, and repeeted her opinyon that, for Laurie's saek, Jo should go away for a tiem.

"Let us sae nuthing about it to him till th plan is setld; then I'll run away befor he can colekt his wits and be tragical. Beth must think I'm going to pleez mieself, as I am, for I can't tauk about Laurie to her; but she can pet and cumfort him after I'm gon, and so cuer him of this roemantik noeshon. He's been thru so meny litl trieals of th sort, he's uezd to it, and wil soon get oever his luv-lornity."

Jo spoek hoepfuly, but cuud not rid herself of th forboeding feer that this "litl trieal" wuud be harder than th others, and that Laurie wuud not get oever his "luv-lornity" as eezily as heertofor.

Th plan wuz taukt oever in a family council, and agreed upon; for Mrs. Kirke gladly accepted Jo, and promist to maek a plezant hoem for her. Th teeching wuud render her independent; and such leezher as she got miet be maed profitabl by rieting, whiel th nue seens and soesieety wuud be boeth uesful and agreeabl. Jo liked th prospekt and wuz eeger to be gon, for th hoem-nest wuz groeing too narro for her restles naechuur and advencherus spirit. When all wuz setld, with feer and trembling she toeld Laurie; but to her serpriez 402 he tuuk it verry qieetly. He had been graever than uezhual of laet, but verry plezant; and, when joekingly accused of turning oever a nue leef, he anserd soeberly, "So I am; and I meen this wun shal stae turnd."

Jo wuz verry much releevd that wun of his vurchu’us fits should cum on just then, and maed her preparaeshons with a lietend hart,—for Beth seemd mor cheerful,—and hoept she wuz dooing th best for all.

"Wun thing I leev to yuur especial caer," she sed, th niet befor she left.

"U meen yuur paepers?" askt Beth.

"No, mi boy. Be verry guud to him, wun't U?"

"Of corss I wil; but I can't fil yuur plaess, and he'll mis U sadly."

"It wun't hurt him; so remember, I leev him in yuur charj, to plaeg, pet, and keep in order."

"I'll do mi best, for yuur saek," promist Beth, wundering whi Jo luukt at her so qeerly.

When Laurie sed "Guud-by," he whisperd significantly, "It wun't do a bit of guud, Jo. Mi ie is on U; so miend whut U do, or I'll cum and bring U hoem."


XXXIII. Jo's Jurnal.

403

I amused myself by dropping gingerbread nuts over the seat

XXXIII.

JO'S Jurnal.

"Nue York, November.

"Deer Marmee and Beth,—

"I'm going to riet U a reguelar voluem, for I've got heeps to tel, tho I'm not a fien yung laedy travelling on th continent. When I lost siet of faather's deer oeld faess, I felt a trifle bloo, and miet hav shed a brieny drop or too, if an Irish laedy with foer small children, all crieing mor or les, hadn't divurted mi miend; for I amuezd mieself by droping jinjerbred nuts oever th seet every tiem thae oepend thaer mouths to ror.

"Soon th sun caem out, and taeking it as a guud oemen, I cleerd up liekwiez, and enjoyd mi jurny with all mi hart.

"Mrs. Kirke welcumd me so kiendly I felt at hoem at wunss, eeven in that big hous fuul of straenjers. She gaev me a funy litl ski-parlor—all 404 she had; but thaer is a stoev in it, and a niess taebl in a suny windo, so I can sit heer and riet whenever I liek. A fien vue and a church-tower opozit atone for th meny staers, and I tuuk a fansy to mi den on th spot. Th nursery, whaer I am to teech and soe, is a plezant room next Mrs. Kirke's private parlor, and th too litl gurls ar prity children,—rather spoilt, I fansy, but thae tuuk to me after teling them 'Th Seven Bad Pigs;' and I've no dout I shal maek a model guvernes.

"I am to hav mi meels with th children, if I prefur it to th graet taebl, and for th prezent I do, for I am bashful, tho no wun wil beleev it.

"'Now, mi deer, maek yuurself at hoem,' sed Mrs. K. in her mutherly wae; 'I'm on th driev from morning to niet, as U mae supoez with such a family; but a graet anxiety wil be off mi miend if I noe th children ar saef with U. Mi rooms ar aulwaes oepen to U, and yuur oen shal be as comfortable as I can maek it. Thaer ar sum plezant peepl in th hous if U feel soeshabl, and yuur evenings ar aulwaes free. Cum to me if anything goes rong, and be as hapy as U can. Thaer's th tee-bel; I must run and chaenj mi cap;' and off she busld, leeving me to setl mieself in mi nue nest.

"As I went dounstaers, soon after, I saw sumthing I liked. Th flights ar verry long in this taul hous, and as I stuud waeting at th hed of th thurd wun for a litl survant gurl to lumber up, I saw a jentlman cum along behind her, taek th hevy hod of coel out of her hand, carry it all th wae up, put it doun at a dor neer by, and wauk away, saeing, with a kiend nod and a forin accent,—

"'It goes beter so. Th litl bak is too yung to haf such hevynes.'

"Wasn't it guud of him? I liek such things, for, as faather sez, trifles sho carrakter. When I menshond it to Mrs. K., that evening, she laft, and sed,—

"'That must hav been Professor Bhaer; he's aulwaes dooing things of that sort.'

"Mrs. K. toeld me he wuz from Berlin; verry lurnd and guud, but puur as a church-mous, and givs lesons to suport himself and too 405 litl orfan nefues hoom he is ejucaeting heer, acording to th wishes of his sister, hoo marryd an American. Not a verry roemantik story, but it interested me; and I wuz glad to heer that Mrs. K. lends him her parlor for sum of his scolars. Thaer is a glas dor between it and th nursery, and I meen to peep at him, and then I'll tel U how he luuks. He's aulmoest forty, so it's no harm, Marmee.

"After tee and a go-to-bed romp with th litl gurls, I attacked th big wurk-basket, and had a qieet evening chating with mi nue frend. I shal keep a jurnal-leter, and send it wunss a week; so guud-niet, and mor to-morro."


"Tuesday Eve.

"Had a lievly tiem in mi seminarry, this morning, for th children akted liek Sancho; and at wun tiem I reealy thaut I should shaek them all round. Sum guud aenjel inspired me to tri gymnastics, and I kept it up till thae wer glad to sit doun and keep still. After lunchon, th gurl tuuk them out for a wauk, and I went to mi needl-wurk, liek litl Mabel, 'with a wiling miend.' I wuz thanking mi stars that I'd lurnd to maek niess buton-hoels, when th parlor-dor oepend and shut, and sum wun began to hum,—

'Kennst du das land,'

liek a big bumble-bee. It wuz dredfuly improper, I noe, but I couldn't rezist th temptaeshon; and lifting wun end of th curten befor th glas dor, I peept in. Professor Bhaer wuz thaer; and whiel he araenjd his books, I tuuk a guud luuk at him. A reguelar German,—rather stout, with broun haer tumbld all oever his hed, a bushy beard, guud noez, th kiendest ies I ever saw, and a splendid big vois that duz wun's eers guud, after our sharp or slipshod American gabl. His cloeths wer rusty, his hands wer larj, and he hadn't a reealy handsum feechuur in his faess, exsept his buetiful teeth; yet I liked him, for he had a fien hed; his linen wuz verry niess, and he luukt liek a jentlman, tho too butons wer off his coet, and thaer wuz a pach on wun shoo. He luukt soeber in spiet of his huming, till he went to th windo to turn th hieasinth bulbs tord th sun, and stroek th cat, hoo reseevd him liek an oeld frend. Then he smield; and when a tap caem at th dor, called out in a loud, brisk toen,—

406 "'Herein!'

"I wuz just going to run, when I caut siet of a morsel of a chield carrying a big book, and stopt to see whut wuz going on.

"'Me wonts mi Bhaer,' sed th miet, slaming doun her book, and runing to meet him.

Thou shalt haf thy Bhaer

"'Thow shalt haf thi Bhaer; cum, then, and taek a goot hug from him, mi Tina,' sed th Professor, caching her up, with a laf, and hoelding her so hie oever his hed that she had to stoop her litl faess to kis him.

"'Now me mus tuddy mi lessin,' went on th funy litl thing; so he put her up at th taebl, oepend th graet dikshonaery she had brought, and gaev her a paeper and pensil, and she scribld away, turning a leef now and then, and pasing her litl fat fingger doun th paej, as if fiending a wurd, so soeberly that I neerly betraed mieself by a laf, whiel Mr. Bhaer stuud stroeking her prity haer, with a faatherly luuk, that maed me think she must be his oen, tho she luukt mor French than German.

"Anuther nok and th apeeranss of too yung laedys sent me bak to mi wurk, and thaer I vurchu’usly remaend thru all th noiz and gabling that went on next dor. Wun of th gurls kept lafing affectedly, and saeing 'Now Professor,' in a 407 coquettish toen, and th uther pronounced her German with an accent that must hav maed it hard for him to keep soeber.

"Boeth seemd to tri his paeshenss sorly; for mor than wunss I hurd him sae emfatikaly, 'No, no, it is not so; U haf not atend to whut I sae;' and wunss thaer wuz a loud rap, as if he struk th taebl with his book, foloed by th despaering exclamation, 'Prut! it all goes bad this dae.'

"Puur man, I pityd him; and when th gurls wer gon, tuuk just wun mor peep, to see if he servievd it. He seemd to hav throen himself bak in his chaer, tierd out, and sat thaer with his ies shut till th clok struk too, when he jumpt up, put his books in his poket, as if redy for anuther leson, and, taeking litl Tina, hoo had faulen asleep on th soefa, in his arms, he carried her qieetly away. I fansy he has a hard lief of it.

"Mrs. Kirke askt me if I wouldn't go doun to th fiev o'clok diner; and, feeling a litl bit hoemsik, I thaut I wuud, just to see whut sort of peepl ar under th saem roof with me. So I maed mieself respektabl, and tried to slip in behind Mrs. Kirke; but as she is short, and I'm taul, mi eforts at concealment wer rather a faeluer. She gaev me a seet by her, and after mi faess coold off, I plukt up curej, and luukt about me. Th long taebl wuz fuul, and every wun intent on geting thaer diner,—th jentlmen especially, hoo seemd to be eating on tiem, for thae bolted in every senss of th wurd, vanishing as soon as thae wer dun. Thaer wuz th uezhual assortment of yung men absorbd in themselvs; yung cupls absorbd in eech uther; marryd laedys in thaer baebys, and oeld jentlmen in politiks. I don't think I shal caer to hav much to do with any of them, exsept wun sweet-faest maeden laedy, hoo luuks as if she had sumthing in her.

"Cast away at th verry bottom of th taebl wuz th Professor, shouting ansers to th qeschons of a verry inqizitiv, def oeld jentlman on wun sied, and tauking philosophy with a Frenchman on th uther. If Amy had been heer, she'd hav turnd her bak on him forever, because, sad to relaet, he had a graet apetiet, and shovelled in his diner in a maner which wuud hav horrified 'her ladyship.' I didn't miend, for I liek 'to see foeks eat with a relish,' as Hannah 408 sez, and th puur man must hav needed a deel of food after teeching idiots all dae.

"As I went upstaers after diner, too of th yung men wer setling thaer hats befor th haul-miror, and I hurd wun sae loe to th uther, 'Hoo's th nue party?'

"'Guvernes, or sumthing of that sort.'

"'Whut th deuce is she at our taebl for?'

"'Frend of th oeld laedy's.'

"'Handsum hed, but no stiel.'

"'Not a bit of it. Giv us a liet and cum on.'

"I felt anggry at furst, and then I didn't caer, for a guvernes is as guud as a clurk, and I've got senss, if I haeven't stiel, which is mor than sum peepl hav, jujing from th remarks of th elegant beings hoo claterd away, smoeking liek bad chimnys. I haet ordinaery peepl!"


"Thursday.

"Yesterdae wuz a qieet dae, spent in teeching, soeing, and rieting in mi litl room, which is verry cosey, with a liet and fier. I pikt up a fue bits of nues, and wuz introduest to th Professor. It seems that Tina is th chield of th Frenchwoman hoo duz th fien ieerning in th laundry heer. Th litl thing has lost her hart to Mr. Bhaer, and foloes him about th hous liek a dog whenever he is at hoem, which deliets him, as he is verry fond of children, tho a 'bacheldore.' Kity and Minnie Kirke liekwiez regard him with affection, and tel all sorts of storys about th plaes he invents, th prezents he brings, and th splendid taels he tels. Th yung men qiz him, it seems, call him Oeld Fritz, Laeger Beer, Ursa Maejor, and maek all maner of joeks on his naem. But he enjoys it liek a boy, Mrs. K. sez, and taeks it so guud-naturedly that thae all liek him, in spiet of his forin waes.

"Th maeden laedy is a Mis Norton,—rich, cultivaeted, and kiend. She spoek to me at diner to-dae (for I went to taebl again, it's such fun to woch peepl), and askt me to cum and see her at her room. She has fien books and pikchers, noes interesting pursons, and seems frendly; so I shal maek mieself agreeabl, for I do wont to get into guud soesieety, oenly it isn't th saem sort that Amy lieks.

409 "I wuz in our parlor last evening, when Mr. Bhaer caem in with sum nuezpaepers for Mrs. Kirke. She wasn't thaer, but Minnie, hoo is a litl oeld wuuman, introduest me verry pritily: 'This is maama's frend, Mis March.'

"'Yes; and she's joly and we liek her lots,' aded Kity, hoo is an enfant terribl.

"We boeth bowd, and then we laft, for th prim introdukshon and th blunt adishon wer rather a comikal contrast.

"'Ah, yes, I heer thees nauty wuns go to vex U, Mees Marsch. If so again, call at me and I cum,' he sed, with a thretening froun that delieted th litl reches.

He waved his hand, sock and all

"I promist I wuud, and he departed; but it seems as if I wuz doomed to see a guud deel of him, for to-dae, as I past his dor on mi wae out, by accident I nokt against it with mi umbrela. It floo oepen, and thaer he stuud in his dresing goun, with a big bloo sok on wun hand, and a darning-needl in th uther; he didn't seem at all ashamed of it, for when I explaend and huryd on, he waevd his hand, sok and all, saeing in his loud, cheerful wae,—

"'U haf a fien dae to maek yuur wauk. Bon voyej, mademezel.'

"I laft all th wae dounstaers; but it wuz a litl pathetik, aulso, to think of th puur man having to mend his oen cloeths. Th 410 German jentlmen embroider, I noe; but darning hoez is anuther thing, and not so prity."


"Saturday.

"Nuthing has happened to riet about, exsept a call on Mis Norton, hoo has a room fuul of luvly things, and hoo wuz verry charming, for she shoed me all her treasures, and askt me if I wuud sumtiems go with her to lectures and conserts, as her escort,—if I enjoyd them. She put it as a faevor, but I'm shuur Mrs. Kirke has toeld her about us, and she duz it out of kiendnes to me. I'm as proud as Lucifer, but such faevors from such peepl don't burden me, and I accepted graetfuly.

"When I got bak to th nursery thaer wuz such an upror in th parlor that I luukt in; and thaer wuz Mr. Bhaer doun on his hands and nees, with Tina on his bak, Kity leeding him with a jump-roep, and Minnie feeding too small boys with seed-cakes, as thae rord and rampt in caejes bilt of chaers.

"'We ar plaeing nargerie,' explaend Kity.

"'Dis is mien effalunt!' aded Tina, hoelding on by th Professor's haer.

Dis is mine effalunt

"'Maama aulwaes alows us to do whut we liek Saturday afternoon, when Franz and Emil cum, doesn't she, Mr. Bhaer?' sed Minnie.

411 "Th 'effalunt' sat up, luuking as much in urnest as any of them, and sed soeberly to me,—

"'I gif U mi wort it is so. If we maek too larj a noiz U shal sae "Hush!" to us, and we go mor softly.'

"I promist to do so, but left th dor oepen, and enjoyd th fun as much as thae did,—for a mor glorius frolik I never witnest. Thae plaed tag and soeljers, danst and sung, and when it began to gro dark thae all pield on to th soefa about th Professor, whiel he toeld charming faery storys of th storks on th chimny-tops, and th litl 'kobolds,' hoo ried th sno-flaeks as thae faul. I wish Americans wer as simpl and nacheral as Germans, don't U?

"I'm so fond of rieting, I should go spining on forever if moetivs of economy didn't stop me, for tho I've uezd thin paeper and riten fien, I trembl to think of th stamps this long leter wil need. Prae forward Amy's as soon as U can spaer them. Mi small nues wil sound verry flat after her splendors, but U wil liek them, I noe. Is Teddy studying so hard that he can't fiend tiem to riet to his frends? Taek guud caer of him for me, Beth, and tel me all about th baebys, and giv heeps of luv to every wun.

"From yuur faethful

Jo.

"P. S. On reeding oever mi leter it strieks me as rather Bhaery; but I am aulwaes interested in od peepl, and I reealy had nuthing else to riet about. Bles U!"


"December.

"Mi Precious Betsey,—

"As this is to be a scribl-scrabl leter, I direkt it to U, for it mae amuez U, and giv U sum iedeea of mi goings on; for, tho qieet, thae ar rather amuezing, for which, o, be joyful! After whut Amy wuud call Herculaneum eforts, in th wae of mental and moral agriculcher, mi yung iedeeas begin to shoot and mi litl twigs to bend as I cuud wish. Thae ar not so interesting to me as Tina and th boys, but I do mi duty by them, and thae ar fond of me. Franz and Emil ar joly litl lads, qiet after mi oen hart; for th mixcher of German and American spirit in them produces a constant staet of effervescence. Saturday afternoons ar rieotus times, whether spent in th hous or out; for on plezant daes thae all go to wauk, 412 liek a seminarry, with th Professor and mieself to keep order; and then such fun!

"We ar verry guud frends now, and I've begun to taek lesons. I reealy couldn't help it, and it all caem about in such a droel wae that I must tel U. To begin at th begining, Mrs. Kirke called to me, wun dae, as I past Mr. Bhaer's room, whaer she wuz rumejing.

"'Did U ever see such a den, mi deer? Just cum and help me put thees books to riets, for I've turnd everything upsied doun, trieing to discuver whut he has dun with th six nue hankerchifs I gaev him not long ago.'

"I went in, and whiel we wurkt I luukt about me, for it wuz 'a den,' to be shuur. Books and paepers everywhaer; a broeken meershaum, and an oeld floot oever th mantel-peess as if dun with; a raged burd, without any tael, churpt on wun windo-seet, and a box of whiet miess adornd th uther; haf-finisht boets and bits of string lae amung th manuescripts; durty litl boots stuud drieing befor th fier; and traeses of th deerly beluved boys, for hoom he maeks a slaev of himself, wer to be seen all oever th room. After a grand rumej three of th mising artikls wer found,—wun oever th burd-caej, wun cuverd with ink, and a thurd burnt broun, having been uezd as a hoelder.

"'Such a man!' laft guud-naecherd Mrs. K., as she put th reliks in th rag-bag. 'I supoez th others ar torn up to rig ships, bandage cut finggers, or maek kiet-taels. It's dredful, but I can't scoeld him: he's so absent-miended and guud-naecherd, he lets thoes boys ried oever him ruf-shod. I agreed to do his woshing and mending, but he forgets to giv out his things and I forget to luuk them oever, so he cums to a sad pas sumtiems.'

"'Let me mend them,' sed I. 'I don't miend it, and he needn't noe. I'd liek to,—he's so kiend to me about bringing mi leters and lending books.'

"So I hav got his things in order, and nit heels into too paers of th soks,—for thae wer boggled out of shaep with his qeer darns. Nuthing wuz sed, and I hoept he wouldn't fiend it out, but wun dae last week he caut me at it. Heering th lesons he givs to others 413 has interested and amuezd me so much that I tuuk a fansy to lurn; for Tina runs in and out, leeving th dor oepen, and I can heer. I had been sitting neer this dor, finishing off th last sok, and trieing to understand whut he sed to a nue scolar, hoo is as stoopid as I am. Th gurl had gon, and I thaut he had aulso, it wuz so still, and I wuz busily gabling oever a verb, and roking to and fro in a moest absurd wae, when a litl cro maed me luuk up, and thaer wuz Mr. Bhaer luuking and lafing qieetly, whiel he maed siens to Tina not to betrae him.

"'So!' he sed, as I stopt and staerd liek a gooss, 'U peep at me, I peep at U, and that is not bad; but see, I am not pleasanting when I sae, haf U a wish for German?'

"'Yes; but U ar too busy. I am too stoopid to lurn,' I blunderd out, as red as a peony.

"'Prut! we wil maek th tiem, and we fael not to fiend th senss. At efening I shal gif a litl leson with much gladnes; for, luuk U, Mees Marsch, I haf this det to pae,' and he pointed to mi wurk. 'Yes, thae sae to wun anuther, thees so kiend laedys, "he is a stoopid oeld felo; he wil see not whut we do; he wil never opserve that his sok-heels go not in hoels any mor, he wil think his butons gro out nue when thae faul, and beleev that strings maek theirselves." Ah! but I haf an ie, and I see much. I haf a hart, and I feel th thanks for this. Cum, a litl leson then and now, or no mor guud faery wurks for me and mien.'

"Of corss I couldn't sae anything after that, and as it reealy is a splendid oportuenity, I maed th bargan, and we began. I tuuk foer lesons, and then I stuk fast in a gramatikal bog. Th Professor wuz verry paeshent with me, but it must hav been torment to him, and now and then he'd luuk at me with such an expreshon of mield despaer that it wuz a tos-up with me whether to laf or cri. I tried boeth waes; and when it caem to a snif of uter mortificaeshon and wo, he just throo th gramar on to th flor, and marcht out of th room. I felt mieself disgraest and dezurted forever, but didn't blaem him a partikl, and wuz scrambling mi paepers together, meening to rush upstaers and shaek mieself hard, when in he caem, as brisk and beeming as if I'd cuverd mieself with glory.

414 "'Now we shal tri a nue wae. U and I wil red thees plezant litl Märchen together, and dig no mor in that dri book, that goes in th corner for maeking us trubl.'

"He spoek so kiendly, and oepend Hans Andersen's faery taels so invietingly befor me, that I wuz mor ashamed than ever, and went at mi leson in a nek-or-nuthing stiel that seemd to amuez him imensly. I forgot mi bashfulness, and pegd away (no uther wurd wil expres it) with all mi miet, tumbling oever long wurds, pronouncing acording to th inspiraeshon of th mienuet, and dooing mi verry best. When I finisht reeding mi furst paej, and stopt for breth, he clapt his hands and cried out, in his harty wae, 'Das ist gute! Now we go wel! Mi turn. I do him in German; gif me yuur eer.' And away he went, rumbling out th wurds with his strong vois, and a relish which wuz guud to see as wel as heer. Forchunatly th story wuz th 'Constant Tin Soeljer,' which is droel, U noe, so I cuud laf,—and I did,—tho I didn't understand haf he red, for I couldn't help it, he wuz so urnest, I so exsieted, and th hoel thing so comikal.

"After that we got on beter, and now I red mi lesons prity wel; for this wae of studying suits me, and I can see that th gramar gets tukt into th taels and poetry as wun givs pils in jely. I liek it verry much, and he doesn't seem tierd of it yet,—which is verry guud of him, isn't it? I meen to giv him sumthing on Christmas, for I daer not ofer muny. Tel me sumthing niess, Marmee.

"I'm glad Laurie seems so hapy and busy, that he has given up smoeking, and lets his haer gro. U see Beth manages him beter than I did. I'm not jelus, deer; do yuur best, oenly don't maek a saent of him. I'm afraed I couldn't liek him without a spiess of hueman nautynes. Red him bits of mi leters. I haeven't tiem to riet much, and that wil do just as wel. Thank Heven Beth continues so comfortable."


"January.

"A Hapy Nue Yeer to U all, mi deerest family, which of corss incloods Mr. L. and a yung man by th naem of Teddy. I can't tel U how much I enjoyd yuur Christmas bundle, for I didn't get it till niet, and had given up hoeping. Yuur leter caem in th morning, 415 but U sed nuthing about a parsel, meening it for a serpriez; so I wuz disapointed, for I'd had a 'kiend of a feeling' that U wouldn't forget me. I felt a litl loe in mi miend, as I sat up in mi room, after tee; and when th big, mudy, battered-luuking bundle wuz brought to me, I just hugd it, and pranst. It wuz so hoemy and refreshing, that I sat doun on th flor and red and luukt and aet and laft and cried, in mi uezhual absurd wae. Th things wer just whut I wontedw, and all th beter for being maed insted of bought. Beth's nue 'ink-bib' wuz capital; and Hannah's box of hard jinjerbred wil be a treasure. I'll be shuur and waer th niess flannels U sent, Marmee, and red carefully th books faather has markt. Thank U all, heeps and heeps!

I sat down upon the floor and read and looked and ate

"Speeking of books remiends me that I'm geting rich in that lien for, on Nue Yeer's Dae, Mr. Bhaer gaev me a fien Shakespeare. It is wun he values much, and I've ofen admierd it, set up in th plaess of onor, with his German Biebl, Plato, Hoemer, and Milton; so U mae imajin how I felt when he brought it doun, without its cuver, and shoed me mi naem in it, 'from mi frend Friedrich Bhaer.'

416 "'U sae ofen U wish a liebraery: heer I gif U wun; for between thees lids (he ment cuvers) is meny books in wun. Red him wel, and he wil help U much; for th study of carrakter in this book wil help U to red it in th wurld and paent it with yuur pen.'

"I thankt him as wel as I cuud, and tauk now about 'mi liebraery,' as if I had a hundred books. I never knew how much thaer wuz in Shakespeare befor; but then I never had a Bhaer to explaen it to me. Now don't laf at his horrid naem; it isn't pronounced eether Baer or Beer, as peepl wil sae it, but sumthing between th too, as oenly Germans can giv it. I'm glad U boeth liek whut I tel U about him, and hoep U wil noe him sum dae. Muther wuud admier his worm hart, faather his wiez hed. I admier boeth, and feel rich in mi nue 'frend Friedrich Bhaer.'

"Not having much muny, or noeing whut he'd liek, I got several litl things, and put them about th room, whaer he wuud fiend them unexpectedly. Thae wer uesful, prity, or funy,—a nue standish on his taebl, a litl vaess for his flower,—he aulwaes has wun, or a bit of green in a glas, to keep him fresh, he sez,—and a hoelder for his blower, so that he needn't burn up whut Amy calls 'mouchoirs.' I maed it liek thoes Beth invented,—a big butterfly with a fat body, and blak and yelo wings, wuusted feelers, and beed ies. It tuuk his fansy imensly, and he put it on his mantel-peess as an artikl of vertu; so it wuz rather a faeluer after all. Puur as he is, he didn't forget a survant or a chield in th hous; and not a soel heer, from th French laundry-wuuman to Mis Norton, forgot him. I wuz so glad of that.

"Thae got up a maskeraed, and had a gae tiem Nue Yeer's Eve. I didn't meen to go doun, having no dres; but at th last mienuet, Mrs. Kirke rememberd sum oeld broekaeds, and Mis Norton lent me laess and fethers; so I drest up as Mrs. Malaprop, and saeld in with a mask on. No wun knew me, for I disgiezd mi vois, and no wun dreemd of th silent, hauty Mis March (for thae think I am verry stif and cool, moest of them; and so I am to whipper-snapers) cuud danss and dres, and burst out into a 'niess deraenjment of epitaphs, liek an alegory on th banks of th Nile.' I enjoyd it 417 verry much; and when we unmaskt, it wuz fun to see them staer at me. I hurd wun of th yung men tel anuther that he knew I'd been an aktres; in fakt, he thaut he rememberd seeing me at wun of th mienor theeaters. Meg wil relish that joek. Mr. Bhaer wuz Nik Bottom, and Tina wuz Titania,—a perfect litl faery in his arms. To see them danss wuz 'qiet a landscaep,' to uez a Teddyism.

"I had a verry hapy Nue Yeer, after all; and when I thaut it oever in mi room, I felt as if I wuz geting on a litl in spiet of mi meny faeluers; for I'm cheerful all th tiem now, wurk with a wil, and taek mor interest in uther peepl than I uezd to, which is satisfaktory. Bles U all! Ever yuur luving

Jo."

Tail-piece

XXXIV. A Frend.

418

In the presence of three gentlemen

XXXIV.

A Frend.

Tho verry hapy in th soeshal atmosphere about her, and verry busy with th daily wurk that urnd her bred, and maed it sweeter for th efort, Jo still found tiem for literaery laebors. Th purpos which now tuuk possession of her wuz a nacheral wun to a puur and ambishus gurl; but th means she tuuk to gaen her end wer not th best. She saw that muny confurd power: muny and power, thaerfor, she rezolvd to hav; not to be uezd for herself aloen, but for thoes hoom she luvd mor than self.

Th dreem of filing hoem with cumforts, giving Beth everything she wontedw, from strawberrys in winter to an organ in her bedroom; going abraud herself, and aulwaes having mor than enough, so that she 419 miet indulj in th lukshery of charrity, had been for yeers Jo's moest cherrisht casl in th aer.

Th priez-story expeeri’enss had seemd to oepen a wae which miet, after long travelling and much up-hil wurk leed to this delietful château en Espagne. But th novel dizaster qencht her curej for a tiem, for public opinyon is a jieant which has frietend stouter-hearted Jaks on biger been-stauks than hers. Liek that immortal heero, she repoezd awhile after th furst atempt, which rezulted in a tumbl, and th leest luvly of th jieant's treasures, if I remember rietly. But th "up again and taek anuther" spirit wuz as strong in Jo as in Jak; so she scrambld up, on th shaedy sied this tiem, and got mor booty, but neerly left behind her whut wuz far mor precious than th muny-bags.

She tuuk to rieting sensaeshon storys; for in thoes dark aejes, eeven all-perfect America red rubish. She toeld no wun, but concocted a "thriling tael," and boeldly carried it herself to Mr. Dashwood, editor of th "Weekly Volcaeno." She had never red "Sartor Resartus," but she had a wuumanly instinkt that cloeths possess an inflooenss mor powerful oever meny than th wurth of carrakter or th majik of maners. So she drest herself in her best, and, trieing to persuade herself that she wuz neether exsieted nor nurvus, bravely cliemd too paers of dark and durty staers to fiend herself in a disorderly room, a cloud of sigar-smoek, and th presence of three jentlmen, sitting with thaer heels rather hieer than thaer hats, which artikls of dres nun of them tuuk th trubl to remoov on her apeeranss. Sumwhot daunted by this resepshon, Jo hezitaeted on th threshhoeld, murmering in much embarrassment,—

"Excuez me, I wuz luuking for th 'Weekly Volcaeno' ofis; I wisht to see Mr. Dashwood."

Doun went th hieest paer of heels, up roez th smoekyest jentlman, and, carefully cherrishing his sigar between his finggers, he advanst, with a nod, and a countenanss expresiv of nuthing but sleep. Feeling that she must get thru th mater sumhow, Jo produced her manuescript, and, blushing reder and reder with eech sentenss, blunderd out fragments of th litl speech carefully prepaerd for th ocaezhon.

420 "A frend of mien dezierd me to ofer—a story—just as an experriment—wuud liek yuur opinyon—be glad to riet mor if this suits."

Whiel she blushed and blunderd, Mr. Dashwood had taeken th manuescript, and wuz turning oever th leevs with a paer of rather durty finggers, and casting critikal glanses up and doun th neet paejes.

"Not a furst atempt, I taek it?" obzurving that th paejes wer numberd, cuverd oenly on wun sied, and not tied up with a ribon,—shuur sien of a novis.

"No, sur; she has had sum expeeri’enss, and got a priez for a tael in th 'Blarneystone Baner.'"

"O, did she?" and Mr. Dashwood gaev Jo a qik luuk, which seemd to taek noet of everything she had on, from th boe in her bonnet to th butons on her boots. "Wel, U can leev it, if U liek. We've mor of this sort of thing on hand than we noe whut to do with at prezent; but I'll run mi ie oever it, and giv U an anser next week."

Now, Jo did not liek to leev it, for Mr. Dashwood didn't suit her at all; but, under th surcumstanses, thaer wuz nuthing for her to do but boe and wauk away, luuking particularly taul and dignified, as she wuz apt to do when netld or abasht. Just then she wuz boeth; for it wuz perfectly evident, from th noeing glanses exchanged amung th jentlmen, that her litl fikshon of "mi frend" wuz considerd a guud joek; and a laf, produced by sum inaudibl remark of th editor, as he cloezd th dor, completed her discumficher. Haf rezolving never to return, she went hoem, and wurkt off her iritaeshon by stitching pinafores vigorusly; and in an our or too wuz cool enough to laf oever th seen, and long for next week.

When she went again, Mr. Dashwood wuz aloen, whaerat she rejoist; Mr. Dashwood wuz much wieder awake than befor, which wuz agreeabl; and Mr. Dashwood wuz not too deeply absorbd in a sigar to remember his maners: so th second intervue wuz much mor comfortable than th furst.

"We'll taek this" (editors never sae I), "if U don't objekt to a fue aulteraeshons. It's too long, but oemiting th pasejes I've markt wil maek it just th riet length," he sed, in a business-liek toen.

421 Jo hardly knew her oen MS. again, so crumpld and underscord wer its paejes and parragrafs; but, feeling as a tender paerent miet on being askt to cut off her baeby's legs in order that it miet fit into a nue craedl, she luukt at th markt pasejes, and wuz serpriezd to fiend that all th moral reflekshons—which she had carefully put in as balast for much roemanss—had been striken out.

"But, sur, I thaut every story should hav sum sort of a moral, so I tuuk caer to hav a fue of mi sinners repent."

Mr. Dashwood's editorial gravity relaxt into a smiel, for Jo had forgoten her "frend," and spoeken as oenly an author cuud.

"Peepl wont to be amuezd, not preecht at, U noe. Morals don't sel nowadaes;" which wuz not qiet a corekt statement, by th wae.

"U think it wuud do with thees aulteraeshons, then?"

"Yes; it's a nue plot, and prity wel wurkt up—langgwej guud, and so on," wuz Mr. Dashwood's affable replie.

"Whut do U—that is, whut compensaeshon—" began Jo, not exaktly noeing how to expres herself.

"O, yes, wel, we giv from twenty-fiev to thurty for things of this sort. Pae when it cums out," returnd Mr. Dashwood, as if that pointer had escaept him; such trifles ofen do escaep th editorial miend, it is sed.

"Verry wel; U can hav it," sed Jo, handing bak th story, with a satisfied aer; for, after th dolar-a-column wurk, eeven twenty-fiev seemd guud pae.

"Shal I tel mi frend U wil taek anuther if she has wun beter than this?" askt Jo, unconshus of her litl slip of th tung, and emboldened by her success.

"Wel, we'll luuk at it; can't promis to taek it. Tel her to maek it short and spiesy, and never miend th moral. Whut naem wuud yuur frend liek to put to it?" in a careless toen.

"Nun at all, if U pleez; she doesn't wish her naem to apeer, and has no nom de plume," sed Jo, blushing in spiet of herself.

"Just as she lieks, of corss. Th tael wil be out next week; wil U call for th muny, or shal I send it?" askt Mr. Dashwood, hoo felt a nacheral dezier to noe hoo his nue contributor miet be.

422 "I'll call. Guud morning, sur."

As she departed, Mr. Dashwood put up his feet, with th graesful remark, "Puur and proud, as uezhual, but she'll do."

Foloeing Mr. Dashwood's direkshons, and maeking Mrs. Northbury her model, Jo rashly tuuk a plunj into th frothy see of sensaeshonal literachuur; but, thanks to th lief-preserver throen her by a frend, she caem up again, not much th wurss for her duking.

Liek moest yung scriblers, she went abraud for her carrakters and seenery; and banditti, counts, jipsys, nuns, and ducheses apeerd upon her staej, and plaed thaer parts with as much accuracy and spirit as cuud be expected. Her reeders wer not particular about such trifles as gramar, punctuation, and probability, and Mr. Dashwood graeshusly permited her to fil his columns at th loeest prieses, not thinking it nesesaery to tel her that th reeal cauz of his hospitality wuz th fakt that wun of his haks, on being oferd hieer waejes, had basely left him in th lurch.

She soon becaem interested in her wurk, for her emaeshiaeted purss groo stout, and th litl hord she wuz maeking to taek Beth to th mountens next sumer groo sloely but surely as th weeks past. Wun thing disturbs her satisfakshon, and that wuz that she did not tel them at hoem. She had a feeling that faather and muther wuud not aproov, and prefurd to hav her oen wae furst, and beg pardon afterward. It wuz eezy to keep her seecret, for no naem apeerd with her storys; Mr. Dashwood had, of corss, found it out verry soon, but promist to be dum; and, for a wunder, kept his wurd.

She thaut it wuud do her no harm, for she sincerely ment to riet nuthing of which she should be ashamed, and qieeted all priks of conshenss by antisipaeshons of th hapy mienuet when she should sho her urnestly and laf oever her wel-kept seecret.

But Mr. Dashwood rejekted any but thriling taels; and, as thrils cuud not be produced exsept by harroeing up th soels of th reeders, history and roemanss, land and see, sieenss and art, poleess records and loonatik asylums, had to be ransakt for th purpos. Jo soon found that her inosent expeeri’enss had given her but fue glimpses of th trajik wurld which underlies soesieety; so, regarding it in a business liet, she set about suplieing her defishensys with carrakteristik 423 enerjy. Eeger to fiend mateerial for storys, and bent on maeking them orijinal in plot, if not masterly in exsecueshon, she surcht nuezpaepers for accidents, insidents, and criems; she exsieted th suspishons of public liebraerians by asking for wurks on poizons; she studyd faeses in th street, and carrakters, guud, bad, and indiferent, all about her; she delvd in th dust of ancient times for fakts or fikshons so oeld that thae wer as guud as nue, and introduest herself to foly, sin, and mizery, as wel as her limited oportuenitys alowd. She thaut she wuz prospering fienly; but, unconshusly, she wuz begining to desecraet sum of th womanliest atribuets of a wuuman's carrakter. She wuz living in bad soesieety; and, imajinarry tho it wuz, its inflooenss affected her, for she wuz feeding hart and fansy on daenjerus and unsubstantial food, and wuz fast brushing th inosent bloom from her naechuur by a premature aqaentanss with th darker sied of lief, which cums soon enough to all of us.

She wuz begining to feel rather than see this, for much descriebing of uther peepl's pashons and feelings set her to studying and specuelaeting about her oen,—a morbid amuezment, in which helthy yung miends do not voluntaerily indulj. Rong-dooing aulwaes brings its oen punishment; and, when Jo moest needed hers, she got it.

I don't noe whether th study of Shakespeare helpt her to red carrakter, or th nacheral instinkt of a wuuman for whut wuz onest, braev, and strong; but whiel endowing her imajinarry heroes with every perfection under th sun, Jo wuz discuvering a liv heero, hoo interested her in spiet of meny hueman imperfekshons. Mr. Bhaer, in wun of thaer conversations, had advised her to study simpl, troo, and luvly carrakters, whaerever she found them, as guud traening for a rieter. Jo tuuk him at his wurd, for she coolly turnd round and studyd him,—a proceeding which wuud hav much serpriezd him, had he noen it, for th wurthy Professor wuz verry humbl in his oen conseet.

Whi everybody liked him wuz whut puzzled Jo, at furst. He wuz neether rich nor graet, yung nor handsum; in no respekt whut is called fasinaeting, impoezing, or brilliant; and yet he wuz as atraktiv as a jeenial fier, and peepl seemd to gather about him as nacheraly as about a worm harth. He wuz puur, yet aulwaes apeerd to be giving 424 sumthing away; a straenjer, yet every wun wuz his frend; no longer yung, but as hapy-hearted as a boy; plaen and peculiar, yet his faess luukt buetiful to meny, and his oditys wer freely forgiven for his saek. Jo ofen wocht him, trieing to discuver th charm, and, at last, desieded that it wuz benevolenss which wurkt th mirakl. If he had any sorro, "it sat with its hed under its wing," and he turnd oenly his suny sied to th wurld. Thaer wer liens upon his forhed, but Tiem seemd to hav tucht him jently, remembering how kiend he wuz to others. Th plezant curvs about his mouth wer th memorials of meny frendly wurds and cheery lafs; his ies wer never coeld or hard, and his big hand had a worm, strong grasp that wuz mor expresiv than wurds.

His verry cloeths seemd to partaek of th hospitabl naechuur of th wearer. Thae luukt as if thae wer at eez, and liked to maek him comfortable; his capacious waestcoet wuz suggestive of a larj hart underneeth; his rusty coet had a soeshal aer, and th bagy pokets plainly proovd that litl hands ofen went in empty and caem out fuul; his verry boots wer benevolent, and his collars never stif and raspy liek uther peepl's.

"That's it!" sed Jo to herself, when she at length discuverd that jenuein guud-wil tords' wun's felo-men cuud beautify and dignifi eeven a stout German teecher, hoo shovelled in his diner, darnd his oen soks, and wuz burdend with th naem of Bhaer.

Jo valued guudnes hiely, but she aulso possessed a moest feminine respekt for intelekt, and a litl discuvery which she maed about th Professor aded much to her regard for him. He never spoek of himself, and no wun ever knew that in his naetiv sity he had been a man much onord and esteemed for lurning and integrity, till a countryman caem to see him, and, in a conversation with Mis Norton, divulged th pleezing fakt. From her Jo lurnd it, and liked it all th beter because Mr. Bhaer had never toeld it. She felt proud to noe that he wuz an onord Professor in Berlin, tho oenly a puur langgwej-master in America; and his hoemly, hard-wurking lief wuz much beautified by th spiess of roemanss which this discuvery gaev it.

Anuther and a beter gift than intelekt wuz shoen her in a moest unexpekted maner. Mis Norton had th entrée into literaery soesieety, 425 which Jo wuud hav had no chanss of seeing but for her. Th solitaery wuuman felt an interest in th ambishus gurl, and kiendly confurd meny faevors of this sort boeth on Jo and th Professor. She tuuk them with her, wun niet, to a selekt simpoezium, held in onor of several selebritys.

A select symposium

Jo went prepaerd to boe doun and ador th miety wuns hoom she had wurshipt with yoothful enthusiasm afar off. But her reverenss for jeenyus reseevd a seveer shok that niet, and it tuuk her sum tiem to recuver from th discuvery that th graet creechers wer oenly men and wimen after all. Imajin her dismae, on stealing a glanss of timid admeraeshon at th poeet hoos liens sugjested an etheerial being fed on "spirit, fier, and due," to behoeld him devouring his super with an ardor which flusht his intelekchual countenanss. Turning as from a faulen iedol, she maed uther discuverys which rapidly dispeld her roemantik iloozhons. Th graet novelist viebraeted between too decanters with th reguelarrity of a penjulum; th faemus divine flurted oepenly with wun of th Madame de Staëls of th aej, hoo luukt dagers at anuther Corinne, hoo wuz amiably satiriezing 426 her, after out-manœuvring her in eforts to absorb th profound philosopher, hoo imbiebed tee Johnsonianly and apeerd to slumber, th loeqasity of th laedy rendering speech imposibl. Th sieentifikly selebritys, forgeting thaer molusks and glaeshal periods, gosipt about art, whiel devoeting themselvs to oisters and ieses with carrakteristik enerjy; th yung muezishan, hoo wuz charming th sity liek a second Orpheus, taukt horses; and th specimen of th British noebility prezent happened to be th moest ordinaery man of th party.

Befor th evening wuz haf oever, Jo felt so completely désillusionée, that she sat doun in a corner to recuver herself. Mr. Bhaer soon joind her, luuking rather out of his element, and prezently several of th philosophers, eech mounted on his hoby, caem ambling up to hoeld an intelekchual tuurnament in th resess (vurb). Th conversation wuz miels beyond Jo's comprehension, but she enjoyd it, tho Kant and Hegel wer unnoen gods, th Subjektiv and Objektiv unintelijibl turms; and th oenly thing "evolved from her iner conshusnes," wuz a bad hedaek after it wuz all oever. It daund upon her grajualy that th wurld wuz being pikt to pieces, and put together on nue, and, acording to th taekers, on infinitly beter prinsipls than befor; that relijon wuz in a faer wae to be reezond into nuthingnes, and intelekt wuz to be th oenly God. Jo knew nuthing about philosophy or metafiziks of any sort, but a cuerius exsietment, haf plezherabl, haf paenful, caem oever her, as she lisend with a senss of being turnd adrift into tiem and spaess, liek a yung balloon out on a holidae.

She luukt round to see how th Professor liked it, and found him luuking at her with th grimest expreshon she had ever seen him waer. He shuuk his hed, and becond her to cum away; but she wuz fasinaeted, just then, by th freedom of Specuelaetiv Philosophy, and kept her seet, trieing to fiend out whut th wiez jentlmen intended to relie upon after thae had anieilaeted all th oeld beleefs.

Now, Mr. Bhaer wuz a difident man, and slo to ofer his oen opinyons, not because thae wer unsetld, but too sincere and urnest to be lietly spoeken. As he glanst from Jo to several uther yung peepl, atrakted by th brilliancy of th philosophic pyrotechnics, he nit his brows, and longed to speek, feering that sum inflamabl 427 yung soel wuud be led astray by th rokets, to fiend, when th displae wuz oever, that thae had oenly an empty stik or a scorcht hand.

He bor it as long as he cuud; but when he wuz apeeld to for an opinyon, he blaezd up with onest indignaeshon, and defended relijon with all th eloquence of trooth,—an eloquence which maed his broeken English muezikal, and his plaen faess buetiful. He had a hard fiet, for th wiez men argued wel; but he didn't noe when he wuz beeten, and stuud to his culors liek a man. Sumhow, as he taukt, th wurld got riet again to Jo; th oeld beleefs, that had lasted so long, seemd beter than th nue; God wuz not a bliend forss, and imortality wuz not a prity faebl, but a blest fakt. She felt as if she had solid ground under her feet again; and when Mr. Bhaer paused, out-taukt, but not wun whit convinced, Jo wontedw to clap her hands and thank him.

She did neether; but she rememberd this seen, and gaev th Professor her hartyest respekt, for she knew it cost him an efort to speek out then and thaer, because his conshenss wuud not let him be silent. She began to see that carrakter is a beter possession than muny, rank, intelekt, or buety; and to feel that if graetnes is whut a wiez man has defiend it to be, "trooth, reverenss, and guud-wil," then her frend Friedrich Bhaer wuz not oenly guud, but graet.

This beleef strengthend daily. She valued his esteem, she cuveted his respekt, she wontedw to be wurthy of his frendship; and, just when th wish wuz sincerest, she caem neer loozing everything. It all groo out of a cokt hat; for wun evening th Professor caem in to giv Jo her leson, with a paeper soeljer-cap on his hed, which Tina had put thaer, and he had forgoten to taek off.

"It's evident he doesn't luuk in his glas befor cuming doun," thaut Jo, with a smiel, as he sed "Goot efening," and sat soeberly doun, qiet unconshus of th loodicrus contrast between his subjekt and his hed-geer, for he wuz going to red her th "Deth of Wallenstein."

He doesn't prink at his glass before coming

She sed nuthing at furst, for she liked to heer him laf out his big, harty laf, when anything funy happened, so she left him to discuver it for himself, and prezently forgot all about it; for to heer a German red Schiller is rather an absorbing ocuepaeshon. After th 428 reeding caem th leson, which wuz a lievly wun, for Jo wuz in a gae mood that niet, and th cokt-hat kept her ies dansing with merriment. Th Professor didn't noe whut to maek of her, and stopt at last, to ask, with an aer of mield serpriez that wuz irezistibl,—

"Mees Marsch, for whut do U laf in yuur master's faess? Haf U no respekt for me, that U go on so bad?"

"How can I be respektful, sur, when U forget to taek yuur hat off?" sed Jo.

Lifting his hand to his hed, th absent-miended Professor gravely felt and remoovd th litl cokt-hat, luukt at it a mienuet, and then throo bak his hed, and laft liek a merry bas-vieol.

429 "Ah! I see him now; it is that imp Tina hoo maeks me a fool with mi cap. Wel, it is nuthing; but see U, if this leson goes not wel, U too shal waer him."

But th leson did not go at all for a fue minits, because Mr. Bhaer caut siet of a pikcher on th hat, and, unfoelding it, sed, with an aer of graet disgust,—

"I wish thees paepers did not cum in th hous; thae ar not for children to see, nor yung peepl to red. It is not wel, and I haf no paeshenss with thoes hoo maek this harm."

Jo glanst at th sheet, and saw a pleezing ilustraeshon compoezd of a loonatik, a corps, a vilan, and a vieper. She did not liek it; but th impulss that maed her turn it oever wuz not wun of displeasure, but feer, because, for a mienuet, she fansyd th paeper wuz th "Volcaeno." It wuz not, however, and her panik subsided as she rememberd that, eeven if it had been, and wun of her oen taels in it, thaer wuud hav been no naem to betrae her. She had betraed herself, however, by a luuk and a blush; for, tho an absent man, th Professor saw a guud deel mor than peepl fansyd. He knew that Jo roet, and had met her doun amung th nuezpaeper ofises mor than wunss; but as she never spoek of it, he askt no qeschons, in spiet of a strong dezier to see her wurk. Now it ocurd to him that she wuz dooing whut she wuz ashamed to oen, and it trubld him. He did not sae to himself, "It is nun of mi business; I've no riet to sae anything," as meny peepl wuud hav dun; he oenly rememberd that she wuz yung and puur, a gurl far away from muther's luv and faather's caer; and he wuz moovd to help her with an impulss as qik and nacheral as that which wuud prompt him to put out his hand to saev a baeby from a pudl. All this flasht thru his miend in a mienuet, but not a traess of it apeerd in his faess; and by th tiem th paeper wuz turnd, and Jo's needl threded, he wuz redy to sae qiet nacheraly, but verry gravely,—

"Yes, U ar riet to put it from U. I do not liek to think that guud yung gurls should see such things. Thae ar maed plezant to sum, but I wuud mor rather giv mi boys gunpowder to plae with than this bad trash."

"All mae not be bad, oenly sily, U noe; and if thaer is a demand 430 for it, I don't see any harm in suplieing it. Meny verry respektabl peepl maek an onest living out of whut ar called sensaeshon storys," sed Jo, scraching gathers so enerjetikaly that a row (noun) of litl slits foloed her pin.

"Thaer is a demand for whisky, but I think U and I do not caer to sel it. If th respektabl peepl knew whut harm thae did, thae wuud not feel that th living wuz onest. Thae haf no riet to put poizon in th sugar-plum, and let th small wuns eat it. No; thae should think a litl, and sweep mud in th street befor thae do this thing."

Mr. Bhaer spoek wormly, and waukt to th fier, crumpling th paeper in his hands. Jo sat still, luuking as if th fier had cum to her; for her cheeks burnd long after th cokt hat had turnd to smoek, and gon harmlessly up th chimny.

"I should liek much to send all th rest after him," muterd th Professor, cuming bak with a releevd aer.

Jo thaut whut a blaez her piel of paepers upstaers wuud maek, and her hard-urnd muny lae rather hevily on her conshenss at that mienuet. Then she thaut consolingly to herself, "Mien ar not liek that; thae ar oenly sily, never bad, so I wun't be wuryd;" and taeking up her book, she sed, with a stoodius faess,—

"Shal we go on, sur? I'll be verry guud and proper now."

"I shal hoep so," wuz all he sed, but he ment mor than she imajind; and th graev, kiend luuk he gaev her maed her feel as if th wurds "Weekly Volcaeno" wer printing in larj tiep on her forhed.

As soon as she went to her room, she got out her paepers, and carefully re-red every wun of her storys. Being a litl short-sieted, Mr. Bhaer sumtiems uezd ie-glases, and Jo had tried them wunss, smieling to see how thae magnified th fien print of her book; now she seemd to hav got on th Professor's mental or moral spektakls aulso; for th faults of thees puur storys glaerd at her dredfuly, and fild her with dismae.

"Thae ar trash, and wil soon be wurss than trash if I go on; for eech is mor sensaeshonal than th last. I've gon bliendly on, hurting mieself and uther peepl, for th saek of muny; I noe it's so, for 431 I can't red this stuf in soeber urnest without being horribly ashamed of it; and whut should I do if thae wer seen at hoem, or Mr. Bhaer got hoeld of them?"

Jo turnd hot at th baer iedeea, and stuft th hoel bundle into her stoev, neerly setting th chimny afire with th blaez.

Jo stuffed the whole bundle into the stove

"Yes, that's th best plaess for such inflamabl nonsenss; I'd beter burn th hous doun, I supoez, than let uther peepl blo themselvs up with mi gunpowder," she thaut, as she wocht th "Deemon of th Jura" whisk away, a litl blak cinder with fiery ies.

But when nuthing remaend of all her three munths' wurk exsept a heep of ashes, and th muny in her lap, Jo luukt soeber, as she sat on th flor, wundering whut she aut to do about her waejes.

"I think I haeven't dun much harm yet, and mae keep this to pae for mi tiem," she sed, after a long meditaeshon, ading impaeshently, "I aulmoest wish I hadn't any conshenss, it's so inconveeni’ent. If I didn't caer about dooing riet, and didn't feel uncumfortabl when dooing rong, I should get on capitally. I can't help wishing sumtiems, that faather and muther hadn't been so particular about such things."

432 Ah, Jo, insted of wishing that, thank God that "faather and muther wer particular," and pity from yuur hart thoes hoo hav no such guardians to hej them round with prinsipls which mae seem liek prizon-wauls to impaeshent yooth, but which wil proov shuur foundaeshons to build carrakter upon in wuumanhuud.

Jo roet no mor sensaeshonal storys, desieding that th muny did not pae for her shaer of th sensaeshon; but, going to th uther extreem, as is th wae with peepl of her stamp, she tuuk a corss of Mrs. Sherwood, Mis Edgeworth, and Hannah Mor; and then produced a tael which miet hav been mor properly called an essay or a surmon, so intensely moral wuz it. She had her doubts about it from th begining; for her lievly fansy and gurlish roemanss felt as il at eez in th nue stiel as she wuud hav dun maskeraeding in th stif and cumbrus costume of th last senchery. She sent this diedaktik jem to several markets, but it found no purchaser; and she wuz inclined to agree with Mr. Dashwood, that morals didn't sel.

Then she tried a chield's story, which she cuud eezily hav dispoezd of if she had not been mursenaery enough to demand filthy looker for it. Th oenly purson hoo oferd enough to maek it wurth her whiel to tri jooveniel literachuur wuz a wurthy jentlman hoo felt it his mishon to convurt all th wurld to his particular beleef. But much as she liked to riet for children, Jo cuud not consent to depikt all her nauty boys as being eeten by baers or tost by mad buuls, because thae did not go to a particular Sabath-scool, nor all th guud infants, hoo did go, as reworded by every kiend of bliss, from gilded jinjerbred to escorts of aenjels, when thae departed this lief with psalms or surmons on thaer lisping tungs. So nuthing caem of thees trieals; and Jo corkt up her inkstand, and sed, in a fit of verry hoelsum huemility,—

"I don't noe anything; I'll waet till I do befor I tri again, and, meentiem, 'sweep mud in th street,' if I can't do beter; that's onest, at leest;" which desizhon proovd that her second tumbl doun th been-stauk had dun her sum guud.

Whiel thees inturnal revolooshons wer going on, her exturnal lief had been as busy and uneventful as uezhual; and if she sumtiems luukt seerius or a litl sad no wun obzurvd it but Professor Bhaer. He did it so qieetly that Jo never knew he wuz woching to see if she 433 wuud accept and profit by his reproof; but she stuud th test, and he wuz satisfied; for, tho no wurds past between them, he knew that she had given up rieting. Not oenly did he ges it by th fakt that th second fingger of her riet hand wuz no longer inky, but she spent her evenings dounstaers now, wuz met no mor amung nuezpaeper ofises, and studyd with a dogd paeshenss, which ashuurd him that she wuz bent on ocuepieing her miend with sumthing uesful, if not plezant.

He helpt her in meny waes, prooving himself a troo frend, and Jo wuz hapy; for, whiel her pen lae iedl, she wuz lurning uther lesons besied German, and laeing a foundaeshon for th sensaeshon story of her oen lief.

It wuz a plezant winter and a long wun, for she did not leev Mrs. Kirke till June. Every wun seemd sorry when th tiem caem; th children wer inconsolabl, and Mr. Bhaer's haer stuk straet up all oever his hed, for he aulwaes rumpld it wieldly when disturbs in miend.

"Going hoem? Ah, U ar hapy that U haf a hoem to go in," he sed, when she toeld him, and sat silently puuling his beard, in th corner, whiel she held a litl levee on that last evening.

She wuz going eerly, so she bade them all guud-by oever niet; and when his turn caem, she sed wormly,—

"Now, sur, U wun't forget to cum and see us, if U ever travel our wae, wil U? I'll never forgiv U if U do, for I wont them all to noe mi frend."

"Do U? Shal I cum?" he askt, luuking doun at her with an eeger expreshon which she did not see.

"Yes, cum next munth; Laurie grajuatts then, and U'd enjoy Commencement as sumthing nue."

"That is yuur best frend, of hoom U speek?" he sed, in an aulterd toen.

"Yes, mi boy Teddy; I'm verry proud of him, and should liek U to see him."

Jo luukt up then, qiet unconshus of anything but her oen plezher in th prospekt of shoeing them to wun anuther. Sumthing in Mr. Bhaer's faess sudenly recauld th fakt that she miet fiend 434 Laurie mor than a "best frend," and, simply because she particularly wisht not to luuk as if anything wuz th mater, she involuntarrily began to blush; and th mor she tried not to, th reder she groo. If it had not been for Tina on her nee, she didn't noe whut wuud hav becum of her. Forchunatly, th chield wuz moovd to hug her; so she manejd to hied her faess an instant, hoeping th Professor did not see it. But he did, and his oen chaenjd again from that moementaery anxiety to its uezhual expreshon, as he sed corjaly,—

"I feer I shal not maek th tiem for that, but I wish th frend much success, and U all hapynes. Gott bles U!" and with that, he shuuk hands wormly, shouldered Tina, and went away.

But after th boys wer abed, he sat long befor his fier, with th tierd luuk on his faess, and th "heimweh," or hoemsiknes, lieing hevy at his hart. Wunss, when he rememberd Jo, as she sat with th litl chield in her lap and that nue softnes in her faess, he leend his hed on his hands a mienuet, and then roemd about th room, as if in surch of sumthing that he cuud not fiend.

"It is not for me; I must not hoep it now," he sed to himself, with a sie that wuz aulmoest a groen; then, as if reproeching himself for th longing that he cuud not repres, he went and kist th too towzled heds upon th pilo, tuuk doun his seldom-uezd meershaum, and oepend his Plato.

He did his best, and did it manfuly; but I don't think he found that a paer of rampant boys, a piep, or eeven th divine Plato, wer verry satisfaktory substitoots for wief and chield and hoem.

Eerly as it wuz, he wuz at th staeshon, next morning, to see Jo off; and, thanks to him, she began her solitaery jurny with th plezant memory of a familyar faess smieling its faerwel, a bunch of vieolets to keep her company, and, best of all, th hapy thaut,—

"Wel, th winter's gon, and I've riten no books, urnd no forchun; but I've maed a frend wurth having, and I'll tri to keep him all mi lief."


XXXV. Hartaek.

435

He put the sisters into the carriage

XXXV.

Hartaek.

Whotever his moetiv miet hav been, Laurie studyd to sum purpos that yeer, for he grajuaeted with onor, and gaev th Latin oraeshon with th graess of a Phillips and th eloquence of a Demosthenes, so his frends sed. Thae wer all thaer, his grandfaather,—o, so proud!—Mr. and Mrs. March, John and Meg, Jo and Beth, and all exulted oever him with th sincere admeraeshon which boys maek liet of at th tiem, but fael to win from th wurld by any after-trieumfs.

"I've got to stae for this confounded super, but I shal be hoem eerly to-morro; U'll cum and meet me as uezhual, gurls?" Laurie sed, as he put th sisters into th carrej after th joys of th dae wer oever. He sed "gurls," but he ment Jo, for she wuz th oenly wun hoo kept up th oeld custom; she had not th hart to refuez her splendid, successful boy anything, and anserd wormly,—

436 "I'll cum, Teddy, raen or shien, and march befor U, plaeing 'Hael th conkering heero cums,' on a jews-harp."

Laurie thankt her with a luuk that maed her think, in a suden panik, "O, deary me! I noe he'll sae sumthing, and then whut shal I do?"

Evening meditaeshon and morning wurk sumwhot alaed her feers, and having desieded that she wouldn't be vaen enough to think peepl wer going to propoez when she had given them every reezon to noe whut her anser wuud be, she set forth at th appointed tiem, hoeping Teddy wouldn't do anything to maek her hurt his puur litl feelings. A call at Meg's, and a refreshing snif and sip at th Daezy and Demijon, still further fortified her for th tête-à-tête, but when she saw a staulwart figuer looming in th distanss, she had a strong dezier to turn about and run away.

"Whaer's th jews-harp, Jo?" cried Laurie, as soon as he wuz within speeking distanss.

"I forgot it;" and Jo tuuk hart again, for that saluetaeshon cuud not be called luver-liek.

She aulwaes uezd to taek his arm on thees ocaezhons; now she did not, and he maed no complaent, which wuz a bad sien, but taukt on rapidly about all sorts of far-away subjekts, till thae turnd from th roed into th litl path that led hoemward thru th groev. Then he waukt mor sloely, sudenly lost his fien flo of langgwej, and, now and then, a dredful pause ocurd. To rescue th conversation from wun of th wels of silence into which it kept fauling, Jo sed haestily,—

"Now U must hav a guud long holidae!"

"I intend to."

Sumthing in his rezoloot toen maed Jo luuk up qikly to fiend him luuking doun at her with an expreshon that ashuurd her th dreded moement had cum, and maed her put out her hand with an imploring,—

"No, Teddy, pleez don't!"

"I wil, and U must heer me. It's no uez, Jo; we've got to hav it out, and th sooner th beter for boeth of us," he anserd, geting flusht and exsieted all at wunss.

437 "Sae whut U liek, then; I'll lisen," sed Jo, with a desperat sort of paeshenss.

Laurie wuz a yung luver, but he wuz in urnest, and ment to "hav it out," if he died in th atempt; so he plunjd into th subjekt with carrakteristik impechuosity, saeing in a vois that wuud get choky now and then, in spiet of manful eforts to keep it steady,—

"I've luvd U ever sinss I've noen U, Jo; couldn't help it, U've been so guud to me. I've tried to sho it, but U wouldn't let me; now I'm going to maek U heer, and giv me an anser, for I can't go on so any longer."

"I wontedw to saev U this; I thaut U'd understand—" began Jo, fiending it a graet deel harder than she expected.

"I noe U did; but gurls ar so qeer U never noe whut thae meen. Thae sae No when thae meen Yes, and driev a man out of his wits just for th fun of it," returnd Laurie, entrenching himself behind an undeniable fakt.

"I don't. I never wontedw to maek U caer for me so, and I went away to keep U from it if I cuud."

"I thaut so; it wuz liek U, but it wuz no uez. I oenly luvd U all th mor, and I wurkt hard to pleez U, and I gaev up billiards and everything U didn't liek, and waeted and never complaend, for I hoept U'd luv me, tho I'm not haf guud enough—" heer thaer wuz a choek that couldn't be controeld, so he decapitaeted buttercups whiel he cleerd his "confounded throet."

"Yes, U ar; U're a graet deel too guud for me, and I'm so graetful to U, and so proud and fond of U, I don't see whi I can't luv U as U wont me to. I've tried, but I can't chaenj th feeling, and it wuud be a lie to sae I do when I don't."

"Reealy, truly, Jo?"

He stopt short, and caut boeth her hands as he put his qeschon with a luuk that she did not soon forget.

"Reealy, truly, deer."

Thae wer in th groev now, cloez by th stiel; and when th last wurds fel reluktantly from Jo's lips, Laurie dropt her hands and turnd as if to go on, but for wunss in his lief that fenss wuz too much for him; so he just laed his hed doun on th mosy poest, and stuud so still that Jo wuz frietend.

He laid his head down on the mossy post

438 "O Teddy, I'm so sorry, so desperatly sorry, I cuud kil mieself if it wuud do any guud! I wish U wouldn't taek it so hard. I can't help it; U noe it's imposibl for peepl to maek themselvs luv uther peepl if thae don't," cried Jo inelegantly but remorsfuly, as she softly pated his shoulder, remembering th tiem when he had cumforted her so long ago.

"Thae do sumtiems," sed a mufld vois from th poest.

"I don't beleev it's th riet sort of luv, and I'd rather not tri it," wuz th desieded anser.

Thaer wuz a long pause, whiel a blakburd sung blithely on th wilo by th river, and th taul gras rusld in th wiend. Prezently Jo sed verry soeberly, as she sat doun on th step of th stiel,—

"Laurie, I wont to tel U sumthing."

He started as if he had been shot, throo up his hed, and cried out, in a feerss toen—

"Don't tel me that, Jo; I can't baer it now!"

"Tel whut?" she askt, wundering at his vieolenss.

439 "That U luv that oeld man."

"Whut oeld man?" demanded Jo, thinking he must meen his grandfaather.

"That devilish Professor U wer aulwaes rieting about. If U sae U luv him, I noe I shal do sumthing desperat;" and he luukt as if he wuud keep his wurd, as he clencht his hands, with a rathful spark in his ies.

Jo wontedw to laf, but restraend herself, and sed wormly, for she, too, wuz geting exsieted with all this,—

"Don't swear, Teddy! He isn't oeld, nor anything bad, but guud and kiend, and th best frend I've got, next to U. Prae, don't fli into a pashon; I wont to be kiend, but I noe I shal get anggry if U abuez mi Professor. I haeven't th leest iedeea of luving him or anybody else."

"But U wil after a whiel, and then whut wil becum of me?"

"U'll luv sum wun else too, liek a sensibl boy, and forget all this trubl."

"I can't luv any wun else; and I'll never forget U, Jo, never! never!" with a stamp to emfasiez his pashonat wurds.

"Whut shal I do with him?" sighed Jo, fiending that emotions wer mor unmanejabl than she expected. "U haeven't hurd whut I wontedw to tel U. Sit doun and lisen; for indeed I wont to do riet and maek U hapy," she sed, hoeping to sooth him with a litl reezon, which proovd that she knew nuthing about luv.

Seeing a rae of hoep in that last speech, Laurie throo himself doun on th gras at her feet, leend his arm on th loeer step of th stiel, and luukt up at her with an expectant faess. Now that araenjment wuz not conducive to calm speech or cleer thaut on Jo's part; for how cuud she sae hard things to her boy whiel he wocht her with ies fuul of luv and longing, and lashes still wet with th biter drop or too her hardnes of hart had wrung from him? She jently turnd his hed away, saeing, as she stroekt th waevy haer which had been alowd to gro for her saek,—how tuching that wuz, to be shuur!—

"I agree with muther that U and I ar not suited to eech uther, because our qik tempers and strong wils wuud probably maek us 440 verry mizerabl, if we wer so foolish as to—" Jo paused a litl oever th last wurd, but Laurie uterd it with a rapcherus expreshon,—

"Marry,—no, we shouldn't! If U luvd me, Jo, I should be a perfect saent, for U cuud maek me anything U liek."

"No, I can't. I've tried it and faeld, and I wun't risk our hapynes by such a seerius experriment. We don't agree and we never shal; so we'll be guud frends all our lievs, but we wun't go and do anything rash."

"Yes, we wil if we get th chanss," muterd Laurie rebelyusly.

"Now do be reezonabl, and taek a sensibl vue of th caess," implord Jo, aulmoest at her wit's end.

"I wun't be reezonabl; I don't wont to taek whut U call 'a sensibl vue;' it wun't help me, and it oenly maeks U harder. I don't beleev U've got any hart."

"I wish I hadn't!"

Thaer wuz a litl qiver in Jo's vois, and, thinking it a guud oemen, Laurie turnd round, bringing all his persuasive powers to baer as he sed, in th wheedlesome toen that had never been so dangerously wheedlesome befor,—

"Don't disapoint us, deer! Every wun expects it. Grandpa has set his hart upon it, yuur peepl liek it, and I can't get on without U. Sae U wil, and let's be hapy. Do, do!"

Not until munths afterward did Jo understand how she had th strength of miend to hoeld fast to th rezolooshon she had maed when she desieded that she did not luv her boy, and never cuud. It wuz verry hard to do, but she did it, noeing that delae wuz boeth uesles and crooel.

"I can't sae 'Yes' truly, so I wun't sae it at all. U'll see that I'm riet, by and by, and thank me for it"—she began solemly.

"I'll be hangd if I do!" and Laurie bounst up off th gras, burning with indignaeshon at th baer iedeea.

"Yes, U wil!" persisted Jo; "U'll get oever this after a whiel, and fiend sum luvly, accomplished gurl, hoo wil ador U, and maek a fien mistres for yuur fien hous. I shouldn't. I'm hoemly and aukward and od and oeld, and U'd be ashamed of me, and we should qorrel,—we can't help it eeven now, U see,—and I 441 shouldn't liek elegant soesieety and U wuud, and U'd haet mi scribling, and I couldn't get on without it, and we should be unhapy, and wish we hadn't dun it, and everything wuud be horrid!"

"Anything mor?" askt Laurie, fiending it hard to lisen paeshently to this prophetic burst.

"Nuthing mor, exsept that I don't beleev I shal ever marry. I'm hapy as I am, and luv mi liberty too wel to be in any hurry to giv it up for any mortal man."

"I noe beter!" broek in Laurie. "U think so now; but thaer'll cum a tiem when U wil caer for sumbody, and U'll luv him tremendously, and liv and die for him. I noe U wil, it's yuur wae, and I shal hav to stand by and see it;" and th despaering luver cast his hat upon th ground with a jescher that wuud hav seemd comikal, if his faess had not been so tragical.

"Yes, I wil liv and die for him, if he ever cums and maeks me luv him in spiet of mieself, and U must do th best U can!" cried Jo, loozing paeshenss with puur Teddy. "I've dun mi best, but U wun't be reezonabl, and it's selfish of U to keep teezing for whut I can't giv. I shal aulwaes be fond of U, verry fond indeed, as a frend, but I'll never marry U; and th sooner U beleev it, th beter for boeth of us,—so now!"

That speech wuz liek fier to gunpowder. Laurie luukt at her a mienuet as if he did not qiet noe whut to do with himself, then turnd sharply away, saeing, in a desperat sort of toen,—

"U'll be sorry sum dae, Jo."

"O, whaer ar U going?" she cried, for his faess frietend her.

"To th devil!" wuz th consoeling anser.

For a mienuet Jo's hart stuud still, as he swung himself doun th bank, tord th river; but it taeks much foly, sin, or mizery to send a yung man to a vieolent deth, and Laurie wuz not wun of th week sort hoo ar conkerd by a singgl faeluer. He had no thaut of a melodramatik plunj, but sum bliend instinkt led him to fling hat and coet into his boet, and row (noun) away with all his miet, maeking beter tiem up th river than he had dun in meny a raess. Jo droo a long breth and unclaspt her hands as she wocht th puur felo trieing to outstrip th trubl which he carried in his hart.

442 "That wil do him guud, and he'll cum hoem in such a tender, penitent staet of miend, that I sha'n't daer to see him," she sed; ading, as she went sloely hoem, feeling as if she had murderd sum inosent thing, and berryd it under th leevs,—

"Now I must go and prepaer Mr. Laurence to be verry kiend to mi puur boy. I wish he'd luv Beth; perhaps he mae, in tiem, but I begin to think I wuz mistaeken about her. O deer! how can gurls liek to hav luvers and refuez them. I think it's dredful."

Being shuur that no wun cuud do it so wel as herself, she went straet to Mr. Laurence, toeld th hard story bravely thru, and then broek doun, crieing so dizmaly oever her oen insensibility that th kiend oeld jentlman, tho sorly disapointed, did not uter a reproech. He found it dificult to understand how any gurl cuud help luving Laurie, and hoept she wuud chaenj her miend, but he knew eeven beter than Jo that luv cannot be forst, so he shuuk his hed sadly, and rezolvd to carry his boy out of harm's wae; for Yung Impechuosity's parting wurds to Jo disturbs him mor than he wuud confes.

When Laurie caem hoem, ded tierd, but qiet compoezd, his grandfaather met him as if he knew nuthing, and kept up th deloozhon verry successfully for an our or too. But when thae sat together in th twilight, th tiem thae uezd to enjoy so much, it wuz hard wurk for th oeld man to rambl on as uezhual, and harder still for th yung wun to lisen to praezes of th last yeer's success, which to him now seemd luv's laebor lost. He bor it as long as he cuud, then went to his piano, and began to plae. Th windoes wer oepen; and Jo, wauking in th garden with Beth, for wunss understuud muezik beter than her sister, for he plaed th "Sonaata Pathétique," and plaed it as he never did befor.

"That's verry fien, I daer sae, but it's sad enough to maek wun cri; giv us sumthing gayer, lad," sed Mr. Laurence, hoos kiend oeld hart wuz fuul of simpathy, which he longed to sho, but knew not how.

Laurie dasht into a lievlyer straen, plaed stormily for several minits, and wuud hav got thru bravely, if, in a moementaery lul, Mrs. March's vois had not been hurd calling,—

"Jo, deer, cum in; I wont U."

443 Just whut Laurie longed to sae, with a diferent meening! As he lisend, he lost his plaess; th muezik ended with a broeken cord, and th muezishan sat silent in th dark.

"I can't stand this," muterd th oeld jentlman. Up he got, groept his wae to th piano, laed a kiend hand on eether of th braud shoulders, and sed, as jently as a wuuman,—

"I noe, mi boy, I noe."

No anser for an instant; then Laurie askt sharply,—

"Hoo toeld U?"

"Jo herself."

"Then thaer's an end of it!" and he shuuk off his grandfaather's hands with an impaeshent moeshon; for, tho graetful for th simpathy, his man's pride cuud not baer a man's pity.

"Not qiet; I wont to sae wun thing, and then thaer shal be an end of it," returnd Mr. Laurence, with uenuezhual mieldnes. "U wun't caer to stae at hoem just now, perhaps?"

"I don't intend to run away from a gurl. Jo can't prevent mi seeing her, and I shal stae and do it as long as I liek," interupted Laurie, in a defieant toen.

"Not if U ar th jentlman I think U. I'm disapointed, but th gurl can't help it; and th oenly thing left for U to do is to go away for a tiem. Whaer wil U go?"

"Anywhere. I don't caer whut becums of me;" and Laurie got up, with a rekles laf, that graeted on his grandfaather's eer.

"Taek it liek a man, and don't do anything rash, for God's saek. Whi not go abraud, as U pland, and forget it?"

"I can't."

"But U've been wield to go, and I promist U should when U got thru colej."

"Ah, but I didn't meen to go aloen!" and Laurie waukt fast thru th room, with an expreshon which it wuz wel his grandfaather did not see.

"I don't ask U to go aloen; thaer's sum wun redy and glad to go with U, anywhere in th wurld."

"Hoo, sur?" stoping to lisen.

"Mieself."

444 Laurie caem bak as qikly as he went, and put out his hand, saeing huskily,—

"I'm a selfish broot; but—U noe—grandfaather—"

"Lord help me, yes, I do noe, for I've been thru it all befor, wunss in mi oen yung daes, and then with yuur faather. Now, mi deer boy, just sit qieetly doun, and heer mi plan. It's all setld, and can be carried out at wunss," sed Mr. Laurence, keeping hoeld of th yung man, as if feerful that he wuud braek away, as his faather had dun befor him.

"Wel, sur, whut is it?" and Laurie sat doun, without a sien of interest in faess or vois.

"Thaer is business in London that needs luuking after; I ment U should atend to it; but I can do it beter mieself, and things heer wil get on verry wel with Brooke to manej them. Mi partners do aulmoest everything; I'm meerly hoelding on till U taek mi plaess, and can be off at any tiem."

"But U haet travelling, sur; I can't ask it of U at yuur aej," began Laurie, hoo wuz graetful for th sacrifiess, but much prefurd to go aloen, if he went at all.

Th oeld jentlman knew that perfectly wel, and particularly dezierd to prevent it; for th mood in which he found his grandson ashuurd him that it wuud not be wiez to leev him to his oen devieses. So, stifling a nacheral regret at th thaut of th hoem cumforts he wuud leev behind him, he sed stoutly,—

"Bles yuur soel, I'm not superannuated yet. I qiet enjoy th iedeea; it wil do me guud, and mi oeld bones wun't sufer, for travelling nowadaes is aulmoest as eezy as sitting in a chaer."

A restles moovment from Laurie sugjested that his chaer wuz not eezy, or that he did not liek th plan, and maed th oeld man ad haestily,—

"I don't meen to be a marplot or a burden; I go because I think U'd feel hapyer than if I wuz left behind. I don't intend to gad about with U, but leev U free to go whaer U liek, whiel I amuez mieself in mi oen wae. I've frends in London and Paris, and should liek to vizit them; meentiem U can go to Italy, Germany, Switzerland, whaer U wil, and enjoy pikchers, muezik, seenery, and advenchers to yuur hart's content."

445 Now, Laurie felt just then that his hart wuz entierly broeken, and th wurld a houling wildernes; but at th sound of surten wurds which th oeld jentlman artfuly introduest into his cloezing sentenss, th broeken hart gaev an unexpekted leep, and a green oeaesis or too sudenly apeerd in th houling wildernes. He sighed, and then sed, in a spiritles toen,—

"Just as U liek, sur; it doesn't mater whaer I go or whut I do."

"It duz to me, remember that, mi lad; I giv U entier liberty, but I trust U to maek an onest uez of it. Promis me that, Laurie."

"Anything U liek, sur."

"Guud," thaut th oeld jentlman. "U don't caer now, but thaer'll cum a tiem when that promis wil keep U out of mischif, or I'm much mistaeken."

Being an enerjetik indivijual, Mr. Laurence struk whiel th ieern wuz hot; and befor th blieted being recuverd spirit enough to rebl, thae wer off. Duuring th tiem nesesaery for preparaeshon, Laurie bor himself as yung jentlmen uezhualy do in such caeses. He wuz moody, iritabl, and pensiv by turns; lost his apetiet, neglekted his dres, and devoeted much tiem to plaeing tempestuously on his piano; avoided Jo, but consoeld himself by staering at her from his windo, with a tragical faess that haunted her dreems by niet, and oprest her with a hevy senss of guilt by dae. Unliek sum suferers, he never spoek of his unreqieted pashon, and wuud alow no wun, not eeven Mrs. March, to atempt consolaeshon or ofer simpathy. On sum accounts, this wuz a releef to his frends; but th weeks befor his deparcher wer verry uncumfortabl, and every wun rejoist that th "puur, deer felo wuz going away to forget his trubl, and cum hoem hapy." Of corss, he smield darkly at thaer deloozhon, but past it by, with th sad superiority of wun hoo knew that his fiedelity, liek his luv, wuz unaulterabl.

When th parting caem he affected hie spirits, to conceal surten inconveeni’ent emotions which seemd inclined to assert themselvs. This gaeety did not impoez upon anybody, but thae tried to luuk as if it did, for his saek, and he got on verry wel till Mrs. March kist 446 him, with a whisper fuul of mutherly solisitued; then, feeling that he wuz going verry fast, he haestily embraced them all round, not forgeting th aflikted Hannah, and ran dounstaers as if for his lief. Jo foloed a mienuet after to waev her hand to him if he luukt round. He did luuk round, caem bak, put his arms about her, as she stuud on th step abuv him, and luukt up at her with a faess that maed his short apeel boeth eloquent and pathetik.

"O Jo, can't U?"

O Jo, can't you?

"Teddy, deer, I wish I cuud!"

447 That wuz all, exsept a litl pause; then Laurie straetend himself up, sed "It's all riet, never miend," and went away without anuther wurd. Ah, but it wasn't all riet, and Jo did miend; for whiel th curly hed lae on her arm a mienuet after her hard anser, she felt as if she had stabd her deerest frend; and when he left her without a luuk behind him, she knew that th boy Laurie never wuud cum again.

Tail-piece

XXXVI. Beth's Seecret.

448

XXXVI.

BETH'S Seecret.

When Jo caem hoem that spring, she had been struk with th chaenj in Beth. No wun spoek of it or seemd aware of it, for it had cum too grajualy to startl thoes hoo saw her daily; but to ies sharpend by absence, it wuz verry plaen; and a hevy waet fel on Jo's hart as she saw her sister's faess. It wuz no paler and but litl thiner than in th autumn; yet thaer wuz a straenj, transpaerent luuk about it, as if th mortal wuz being sloely refiend away, and th immortal shiening thru th frael flesh with an indescriebably pathetik buety. Jo saw and felt it, but sed nuthing at th tiem, and soon th furst impreshon lost much of its power; for Beth seemd hapy, no wun apeerd to dout that she wuz beter; and, prezently, in uther caers, Jo for a tiem forgot her feer.

But when Laurie wuz gon, and peess prevaeld again, th vaeg anxiety returnd and haunted her. She had confest her sins and been forgiven; but when she shoed her saevings and propoezd th mounten trip, Beth had thankt her hartily, but begd not to go so far away from hoem. Anuther litl vizit to th seeshor wuud suit her beter, and, as grandmaa cuud not be prevaeld upon to leev th baebys, Jo tuuk Beth doun to th qieet plaess, whaer she cuud liv much in th oepen aer, and let th fresh see-breezes blo a litl culor into her pale cheeks.

It wuz not a fashonabl plaess, but, eeven amung th plezant peepl thaer, th gurls maed fue frends, prefuring to liv for wun anuther. Beth wuz too shi to enjoy soesieety, and Jo too rapt up in her to caer for any wun else; so thae wer all in all to eech uther, and caem and went, qiet unconshus of th interest thae exsieted in thoes about 449 them, hoo wocht with simpathetik ies th strong sister and th feebl wun, aulwaes together, as if thae felt instinktivly that a long separaeshon wuz not far away.

Thae did feel it, yet neether spoek of it; for ofen between ourselvs and thoes neerest and deerest to us thaer exists a rezurv which it is verry hard to oevercum. Jo felt as if a vael had faulen between her hart and Beth's; but when she put out her hand to lift it up, thaer seemd sumthing saecred in th silence, and she waeted for Beth to speek. She wunderd, and wuz thankful aulso, that her paerents did not seem to see whut she saw; and, duuring th qieet weeks, when th shado groo so plaen to her, she sed nuthing of it to thoes at hoem, beleeving that it wuud tel itself when Beth caem bak no beter. She wunderd still mor if her sister reealy guessed th hard trooth, and whut thoughts wer pasing thru her miend duuring th long ours when she lae on th worm roks, with her hed in Jo's lap, whiel th wiends blew helthfuly oever her, and th see maed muezik at her feet.

With her head in Jo's lap, while the wind blew healthfully over her

Wun dae Beth toeld her. Jo thaut she wuz asleep, she lae so still; and, putting doun her book, sat luuking at her with wistful ies, trieing to see siens of hoep in th faent culor on Beth's cheeks. But she cuud not fiend enough to satisfi her, for th cheeks wer verry thin, and th hands seemd too feebl to hoeld eeven th roezy litl shels thae had been gathering. It caem to her then mor biterly than ever that Beth wuz sloely drifting away from her, and her arms instinktivly tightened thaer hoeld upon th deerest treasure she possessed. For a mienuet her ies wer too dim for seeing, and, when thae cleerd, Beth wuz luuking up at her so tenderly that thaer wuz hardly any need for her to sae,—

"Jo, deer, I'm glad U noe it. I've tried to tel U, but I couldn't."

Thaer wuz no anser exsept her sister's cheek against her oen, not eeven teers; for when moest deeply moovd, Jo did not cri. She wuz th weeker, then, and Beth tried to cumfort and sustaen her, with her arms about her, and th soothing wurds she whisperd in her eer.

"I've noen it for a guud whiel, deer, and, now I'm uezd to it, it isn't hard to think of or to baer. Tri to see it so, and don't be trubld about me, because it's best; indeed it is."

450 "Is this whut maed U so unhapy in th autumn, Beth? U did not feel it then, and keep it to yuurself so long, did U?" askt Jo, refuezing to see or sae that it wuz best, but glad to noe that Laurie had no part in Beth's trubl.

"Yes, I gaev up hoeping then, but I didn't liek to oen it. I tried to think it wuz a sik fansy, and wuud not let it trubl any wun. But when I saw U all so wel and strong, and fuul of hapy plans, it wuz hard to feel that I cuud never be liek U, and then I wuz mizerabl, Jo."

"O Beth, and U didn't tel me, didn't let me cumfort and help U! How cuud U shut me out, and baer it all aloen?"

Jo's vois wuz fuul of tender reproech, and her hart aekt to think of th solitaery strugl that must hav gon on whiel Beth lurnd to sae guud-by to helth, luv, and lief, and taek up her cros so cheerfuly.

"Perhaps it wuz rong, but I tried to do riet; I wasn't shuur, no wun sed anything, and I hoept I wuz mistaeken. It wuud hav been selfish to frieten U all when Marmee wuz so anxious about Meg, and Amy away, and U so hapy with Laurie,—at leest, I thaut so then."

"And I thaut that U luvd him, Beth, and I went away because I couldn't," cried Jo, glad to sae all th trooth.

Beth luukt so amaezd at th iedeea that Jo smield in spiet of her paen, and aded softly,—

"Then U didn't, deary? I wuz afraed it wuz so, and imajind yuur puur litl hart fuul of luv-lornity all that whiel."

"Whi, Jo, how cuud I, when he wuz so fond of U?" askt Beth, as inosently as a chield. "I do luv him deerly; he is so guud to me, how can I help it? But he never cuud be anything to me but mi bruther. I hoep he truly wil be, sumtiem."

"Not thru me," sed Jo decidedly. "Amy is left for him, and thae wuud suit exselently; but I hav no hart for such things, now. I don't caer whut becums of anybody but U, Beth. U must get wel."

"I wont to, o, so much! I tri, but every dae I looz a litl, and feel mor shuur that I shal never gaen it bak. It's liek th tied, Jo, when it turns, it goes sloely, but it can't be stopt."

451 "It shal be stopt, yuur tied must not turn so soon, nienteen is too yung. Beth, I can't let U go. I'll wurk and prae and fiet against it. I'll keep U in spiet of everything; thaer must be waes, it can't be too laet. God wun't be so crooel as to taek U from me," cried puur Jo rebelyusly, for her spirit wuz far les piously submissive than Beth's.

Simpl, sincere peepl seldom speek much of thaer piety; it shoes itself in akts, rather than in wurds, and has mor inflooenss than homilys or protestations. Beth cuud not reezon upon or explaen th faeth that gaev her curej and paeshenss to giv up lief, and cheerfuly waet for deth. Liek a confieding chield, she askt no qeschons, but left everything to God and naechuur, Faather and muther of us all, feeling shuur that thae, and thae oenly, cuud teech and strengthen hart and spirit for this lief and th lief to cum. She did not rebuek Jo with saently speeches, oenly luvd her beter for her pashonat affection, and clung mor cloesly to th deer hueman luv, from which our Faather never means us to be weend, but thru which He draws us cloeser to Himself. She cuud not sae, "I'm glad to go," for lief wuz verry sweet to her; she cuud oenly sob out, "I tri to be wiling," whiel she held fast to Jo, as th furst biter waev of this graet sorro broek oever them together.

By and by Beth sed, with recuverd serenity,—

"U'll tel them this when we go hoem?"

"I think thae wil see it without wurds," sighed Jo; for now it seemd to her that Beth chaenjd every dae.

"Perhaps not; I've hurd that th peepl hoo luv best ar ofen bliendest to such things. If thae don't see it, U wil tel them for me. I don't wont any seecrets, and it's kiender to prepaer them. Meg has John and th baebys to cumfort her, but U must stand by faather and muther, wun't U, Jo?"

"If I can; but, Beth, I don't giv up yet; I'm going to beleev that it is a sik fansy, and not let U think it's troo," sed Jo, trieing to speek cheerfuly.

Beth lae a mienuet thinking, and then sed in her qieet wae,—

"I don't noe how to expres mieself, and shouldn't tri, to any wun but U, because I can't speek out, exsept to mi Jo. I oenly meen 452 to sae that I hav a feeling that it never wuz intended I should liv long. I'm not liek th rest of U; I never maed any plans about whut I'd do when I groo up; I never thaut of being marryd, as U all did. I couldn't seem to imajin mieself anything but stoopid litl Beth, troting about at hoem, of no uez anywhere but thaer. I never wontedw to go away, and th hard part now is th leeving U all. I'm not afraed, but it seems as if I should be hoemsik for U eeven in heven."

Jo cuud not speek; and for several minits thaer wuz no sound but th sie of th wiend and th laping of th tied. A whiet-wingd gul floo by, with th flash of sunshine on its silvery breast; Beth wocht it till it vanisht, and her ies wer fuul of sadnes. A litl grae-coeted sand-burd caem triping oever th beech, "peeping" softly to itself, as if enjoying th sun and see; it caem qiet cloez to Beth, luukt at her with a frendly ie, and sat upon a worm stoen, dresing its wet fethers, qiet at hoem. Beth smield, and felt cumforted, for th tieny thing seemd to ofer its small frendship, and remiend her that a plezant wurld wuz still to be enjoyd.

"Deer litl burd! See, Jo, how taem it is. I liek peeps beter than th guls: thae ar not so wield and handsum, but thae seem hapy, confieding litl things. I uezd to call them mi burds, last sumer; and muther sed thae remiended her of me,—busy, quaker-culord creechers, aulwaes neer th shor, and aulwaes churping that contented litl song of theirs. U ar th gul, Jo, strong and wield, fond of th storm and th wiend, flieing far out to see, and hapy all aloen. Meg is th turtle-duv, and Amy is liek th lark she riets about, trieing to get up amung th clouds, but aulwaes droping doun into its nest again. Deer litl gurl! she's so ambishus, but her hart is guud and tender; and no mater how hie she flies, she never wil forget hoem. I hoep I shal see her again, but she seems so far away."

"She is cuming in th spring, and I meen that U shal be all redy to see and enjoy her. I'm going to hav U wel and roezy by that tiem," began Jo, feeling that of all th chaenjes in Beth, th tauking chaenj wuz th graetest, for it seemd to cost no efort now, and she thaut aloud in a wae qiet unliek bashful Beth.

453 "Jo, deer, don't hoep any mor; it wun't do any guud, I'm shuur of that. We wun't be mizerabl, but enjoy being together whiel we waet. We'll hav hapy times, for I don't sufer much, and I think th tied wil go out eezily, if U help me."

Jo leend doun to kis th tranquil faess; and with that silent kis, she dedicated herself soel and body to Beth.

She wuz riet: thaer wuz no need of any wurds when thae got hoem, for faather and muther saw plainly, now, whut thae had praed to be saevd from seeing. Tierd with her short jurny, Beth went at wunss to bed, saeing how glad she wuz to be at hoem; and when Jo went doun, she found that she wuud be spaerd th hard task of teling Beth's seecret. Her faather stuud leening his hed on th mantel-peess, and did not turn as she caem in; but her muther strecht out her arms as if for help, and Jo went to cumfort her without a wurd.

Tail-piece

XXXVII. Nue Impreshons.

454

He hurried forward to meet her

XXXVII.

Nue Impreshons.

At three o'clok in th afternoon, all th fashonabl wurld at Niess mae be seen on th Promenade des Anglais,—a charming plaess; for th wied wauk, bordered with paams, flowers, and tropikaly shrubs, is bounded on wun sied by th see, on th uther by th grand driev, liend with hoetels and vilas, whiel beyond lie orenj-orchards and th hils. Meny naeshons ar reprezented, meny langgwejes spoeken, meny costumes worn; and, on a suny dae, th spektakl is as gae and brilliant as a carnival. Hauty English, lievly French, soeber Germans, handsum Spaniards, ugly Russians, meek Jews, free-and-eezy Americans, all driev, sit, or saunter heer, chating oever th nues, and criticising th laetest selebrity hoo has arrived,—Ristori or Dickens, Viktor Emmanuel or th Qeen of th Sandwich Ielands. Th equipages ar as vaeryd as th company, and atrakt as much atenshon, especially th loe basket-barouches in which laedys driev themselvs, with a paer of dashing ponies, gae nets to keep thaer volueminus 455 flounses from oeverfloeing th diminuetiv veeikls, and litl grooms on th purch behind.

Along this wauk, on Christmas Dae, a taul yung man waukt sloely, with his hands behind him, and a sumwhot absent expreshon of countenanss. He luukt liek an Italian, wuz drest liek an Englishman, and had th independent aer of an American,—a combinaeshon which cauzd sundry paers of feminine ies to luuk approvingly after him, and sundry dandies in blak velvet suits, with roez-culord nekties, buff gluvs, and orenj-flowers in thaer buton-hoels, to shrug thaer shoulders, and then envy him his inches. Thaer wer plenty of prity faeses to admier, but th yung man tuuk litl noetis of them, exsept to glanss, now and then, at sum blonde gurl, or laedy in bloo. Prezently he stroeld out of th promenade, and stuud a moement at th crosing, as if undecided whether to go and lisen to th band in th Jardin Publique, or to waander along th beech tord Casl Hil. Th qik trot of ponies' feet maed him luuk up, as wun of th litl carrejs, containing a singgl laedy, caem rapidly doun th street. Th laedy wuz yung, blonde, and drest in bloo. He staerd a mienuet, then his hoel faess woek up, and, waeving his hat liek a boy, he huryd forward to meet her.

"O Laurie, is it reealy U? I thaut U'd never cum!" cried Amy, droping th raens, and hoelding out boeth hands, to th graet scandalization of a French maama, hoo haesnd her dauter's steps, lest she should be demoraliezed by behoelding th free maners of thees "mad English."

"I wuz detaend by th wae, but I promist to spend Christmas with U, and heer I am."

"How is yuur grandfaather? When did U cum? Whaer ar U staeing?"

"Verry wel—last niet—at th Chauvain. I called at yuur hoetel, but U wer all out."

"I hav so much to sae, I don't noe whaer to begin! Get in, and we can tauk at our eez; I wuz going for a driev, and longing for company. Flo's saeving up for to-niet."

"Whut happens then, a baul?"

"A Christmas party at our hoetel. Thaer ar meny Americans 456 thaer, and thae giv it in onor of th dae. U'll go with us, of corss? Ant wil be charmd."

"Thank U. Whaer now?" askt Laurie, leening bak and foelding his arms, a proceeding which suited Amy, hoo prefurd to driev; for her parasol-whip and bloo raens oever th whiet ponies' baks, afforded her infinit satisfakshon.

"I'm going to th banker's furst, for leters, and then to Casl Hil; th vue is so luvly, and I liek to feed th peacocks. Hav U ever been thaer?"

"Ofen, yeers ago; but I don't miend having a luuk at it."

"Now tel me all about yuurself. Th last I hurd of U, yuur grandfaather roet that he expected U from Berlin."

"Yes, I spent a munth thaer, and then joind him in Paris, whaer he has setld for th winter. He has frends thaer, and fiends plenty to amuez him; so I go and cum, and we get on capitally."

"That's a soeshabl araenjment," sed Amy, mising sumthing in Laurie's maner, tho she couldn't tel whut.

"Whi, U see he haets to travel, and I haet to keep still; so we eech suit ourselvs, and thaer is no trubl. I am ofen with him, and he enjoys mi advenchers, whiel I liek to feel that sum wun is glad to see me when I get bak from mi waanderings. Durty oeld hoel, isn't it?" he aded, with a luuk of disgust, as thae droev along th boulevard to th Plaess Napoleon, in th oeld sity.

"Th durt is picturesque, so I don't miend. Th river and th hils ar delicious, and thees glimpses of th narro cros-streets ar mi deliet. Now we shal hav to waet for that procession to pas; it's going to th Church of St. John."

Whiel Laurie listlesly wocht th procession of preests under thaer canopys, whiet-vaeld nuns bearing lieted taepers, and sum brutherhuud in bloo, chanting as thae waukt, Amy wocht him, and felt a nue sort of shienes steal oever her; for he wuz chaenjd, and she cuud not fiend th merry-faest boy she left in th moody-luuking man besied her. He wuz hansumer than ever, and graetly improovd, she thaut; but now that th flush of plezher at meeting her wuz oever, he luukt tierd and spiritles,—not sik, nor exaktly unhapy, but oelder and graever than a yeer or too of prosperous lief should hav 457 maed him. She couldn't understand it, and did not venture to ask qeschons; so she shuuk her hed, and tucht up her ponies, as th procession woond away acros th arches of th Paglioni bridge, and vanisht in th church.

"Que pensez vous?" she sed, aering her French, which had improovd in qontity, if not in qolity, sinss she caem abraud.

"That mademezel has maed guud uez of her tiem, and th rezult is charming," replied Laurie, bowing, with his hand on his hart, and an admiering luuk.

She blushed with plezher, but sumhow th compliment did not satisfi her liek th blunt praezes he uezd to giv her at hoem, when he promenaded round her on festival ocaezhons, and toeld her she wuz "aultogether joly," with a harty smiel and an aprooving pat on th hed. She didn't liek th nue toen; for, tho not blasé, it sounded indiferent in spiet of th luuk.

"If that's th wae he's going to gro up, I wish he'd stae a boy," she thaut, with a cuerius senss of disapointment and discumfort, trieing meentiem to seem qiet eezy and gae.

At Avigdor's she found th precious hoem-leters, and, giving th raens to Laurie, red them lugzhuriusly as thae woond up th shaedy roed between green hejes, whaer tee-roezes bloomd as freshly as in June.

"Beth is verry poorly, muther sez. I ofen think I aut to go hoem, but thae all sae 'stae;' so I do, for I shal never hav anuther chanss liek this," sed Amy, luuking soeber oever wun paej.

"I think U ar riet, thaer; U cuud do nuthing at hoem, and it is a graet cumfort to them to noe that U ar wel and hapy, and enjoying so much, mi deer."

He droo a litl neerer, and luukt mor liek his oeld self, as he sed that; and th feer that sumtiems waed on Amy's hart wuz lietend, for th luuk, th akt, th brutherly "mi deer," seemd to ashuur her that if any trubl did cum, she wuud not be aloen in a straenj land. Prezently she laft, and shoed him a small skech of Jo in her scribling-suit, with th boe rampantly erekt upon her cap, and ishooing from her mouth th wurds, "Jeenyus burns!"

Laurie smield, tuuk it, put it in his vest-poket, "to keep it from 458 bloeing away," and lisend with interest to th lievly leter Amy red him.

"This wil be a reguelarly merry Christmas to me, with prezents in th morning, U and leters in th afternoon, and a party at niet," sed Amy, as thae alieted amung th rooins of th oeld fort, and a flok of splendid peacocks caem trooping about them, tamely waeting to be fed. Whiel Amy stuud lafing on th bank abuv him as she scaterd crums to th brilliant burds, Laurie luukt at her as she had luukt at him, with a nacheral cueriosity to see whut chaenjes tiem and absence had raut. He found nuthing to perplex or disapoint, much to admier and aproov; for, oeverluuking a fue litl affectations of speech and maner, she wuz as sprietly and graesful as ever, with th adishon of that indescriebabl sumthing in dres and bearing which we call eleganss. Aulwaes matuur for her aej, she had gaend a surten aplum in boeth carrej and conversation, which maed her seem mor of a wuuman of th wurld than she wuz; but her oeld petulance now and then shoed itself, her strong wil still held its oen, and her naetiv franknes wuz unspoiled by forin polish.

Laurie did not red all this whiel he wocht her feed th peacocks, but he saw enough to satisfi and interest him, and carried away a prity litl pikcher of a briet-faest gurl standing in th sunshine, which brought out th soft hue of her dres, th fresh culor of her cheeks, th goelden glos of her haer, and maed her a prominent figuer in th plezant seen.

As thae caem up on to th stoen plateau that crouns th hil, Amy waevd her hand as if welcuming him to her faevorit haunt, and sed, pointing heer and thaer,—

"Do U remember th Catheedral and th Corso, th fishermen draging thaer nets in th bae, and th luvly roed to Vila Franca, Schubert's Tower, just beloe, and, best of all, that spek far out to see which thae sae is Corsica?"

"I remember; it's not much chaenjd," he anserd, without enthusiasm.

"Whut Jo wuud giv for a siet of that faemus spek!" sed Amy, feeling in guud spirits, and anxious to see him so aulso.

"Yes," wuz all he sed, but he turnd and straend his ies to see 459 th ieland which a graeter uesurper than eeven Napoleon now maed interesting in his siet.

"Taek a guud luuk at it for her saek, and then cum and tel me whut U hav been dooing with yuurself all this whiel," sed Amy, seeting herself, redy for a guud tauk.

But she did not get it; for, tho he joind her, and anserd all her qeschons freely, she cuud oenly lurn that he had roevd about th continent and been to Greece. So, after iedling away an our, thae droev hoem again; and, having paed his respekts to Mrs. Carrol, Laurie left them, promising to return in th evening.

It must be recorded of Amy that she deliberatly "prinked" that niet. Tiem and absence had dun its wurk on boeth th yung peepl; she had seen her oeld frend in a nue liet, not as "our boy," but as a handsum and agreeabl man, and she wuz conshus of a verry nacheral dezier to fiend faevor in his siet. Amy knew her guud points, and maed th moest of them, with th taest and skil which is a forchun to a puur and prity wuuman.

Tarlatan and tulle wer cheep at Niess, so she enveloped herself in them on such ocaezhons, and, foloeing th sensibl English fashon of simpl dres for yung gurls, got up charming litl toilettes with fresh flowers, a fue trinkets, and all maner of dainty devieses, which wer boeth inexpensiv and efektiv. It must be confest that th artist sumtiems got possession of th wuuman, and induljd in anteek coiffures, statuesque atitoods, and classic draeperys. But, deer hart, we all hav our litl weekneses, and fiend it eezy to pardon such in th yung, hoo satisfi our ies with thaer comeliness, and keep our harts merry with thaer artles vanitys.

"I do wont him to think I luuk wel, and tel them so at hoem," sed Amy to herself, as she put on Flo's oeld whiet silk baul-dres, and cuverd it with a cloud of fresh iloozhon, out of which her whiet shoulders and goelden hed emerged with a moest artistik efekt. Her haer she had th senss to let aloen, after gathering up th thik waevs and curls into a Hebe-liek not at th bak of her hed.

"It's not th fashon, but it's becuming, and I can't afford to maek a friet of mieself," she uezd to sae, when advised to frizl, puff, or braed, as th laetest stiel comanded.

460 Having no ornaments fien enough for this important ocaezhon, Amy loopt her fleesy scurts with roezy clusters of azalea, and fraemd th whiet shoulders in delicat green viens. Remembering th paented boots, she survaed her whiet satin slipers with gurlish satisfakshon, and chasséed doun th room, admiering her aristocratic feet all by herself.

"Mi nue fan just maches mi flowers, mi gluvs fit to a charm, and th reeal laess on ant's mouchoir givs an aer to mi hoel dres. If I oenly had a classical noez and mouth I should be perfectly hapy," she sed, survaeing herself with a critikal ie, and a candle in eech hand.

In spiet of this aflikshon, she luukt unuezhualy gae and graesful as she glieded away; she seldom ran,—it did not suit her stiel, she thaut, for, being taul, th stately and Junoesque wuz mor aproepriat than th sportive or piquante. She waukt up and doun th long saloon whiel waeting for Laurie, and wunss araenjd herself under th shandeleer, which had a guud efekt upon her haer; then she thaut beter of it, and went away to th uther end of th room, as if ashamed of th gurlish dezier to hav th furst vue a propitious wun. It so happened that she cuud not hav dun a beter thing, for Laurie caem in so qieetly she did not heer him; and, as she stuud at th distant windo, with her hed haf turnd, and wun hand gathering up her dres, th slender, whiet figuer against th red curtens wuz as efektiv as a wel-plaest stachoo.

"Guud evening, Diana!" sed Laurie, with th luuk of satisfakshon she liked to see in his ies when thae rested on her.

"Guud evening, Apollo!" she anserd, smieling bak at him, for he, too, luukt unuezhualy debonnaire, and th thaut of entering th baul-room on th arm of such a personable man cauzd Amy to pity th foer plaen Mises Davis from th bottom of her hart.

"Heer ar yuur flowers; I araenjd them mieself, remembering that U didn't liek whut Hannah calls a 'sot-bookay,'" sed Laurie, handing her a delicat noezgae, in a hoelder that she had long cuveted as she daily past it in Cardiglia's windo.

Here are your flowers

"How kiend U ar!" she exclaemd graetfuly. "If I'd noen U wer cuming I'd hav had sumthing redy for U to-dae, tho not as prity as this, I'm afraed."

461 "Thank U; it isn't whut it should be, but U hav improovd it," he aded, as she snapt th silver braeslet on her rists.

"Pleez don't."

"I thaut U liked that sort of thing?"

"Not from U; it doesn't sound nacheral, and I liek yuur oeld bluntness beter."

"I'm glad of it," he anserd, with a luuk of releef; then butond her gluvs for her, and askt if his tie wuz straet, just as he uezd to do when thae went to partys together, at hoem.

Th company asembld in th long salle à maenjer, that evening, wuz such as wun sees no-whaer but on th Continent. Th hospitabl Americans had invieted every aqaentanss thae had in Niess, and, having no prejudis against tietls, secuerd a fue to ad lustre to thaer Christmas baul.

A Russian prinss condescended to sit in a corner for an our, and tauk with a masiv laedy, drest liek Hamlet's muther, in blak velvet, with a pearl bridle under her chin. A Polish count, aejd 462 aeteen, devoeted himself to th laedys, hoo pronounced him "a fasinaeting deer," and a German Sereen Sumthing, having cum for th super aloen, roemd vaegly about, seeking whut he miet devour. Baron Rothschild's private secretaery, a larj-noezd Jew, in tight boots, affably beemd upon th wurld, as if his master's naem cround him with a goelden haelo; a stout Frenchman, hoo knew th Emperor, caem to indulj his maenia for dansing, and Laedy de Jones, a British maetron, adornd th seen with her litl family of aet. Of corss, thaer wer meny liet-fuuted, shril-voist American gurls, handsum, liefles-luuking English ditto, and a fue plaen but piquante French demoiselles; liekwiez th uezhual set of travelling yung jentlmen, hoo disported themselvs gaely, whiel maamas of all naeshons liend th wauls, and smield upon them benignly when thae danst with thaer dauters.

Any yung gurl can imajin Amy's staet of miend when she "tuuk th staej" that niet, leening on Laurie's arm. She knew she luukt wel, she luvd to danss, she felt that her fuut wuz on her naetiv heeth in a baul-room, and enjoyd th delietful senss of power which cums when yung gurls furst discuver th nue and luvly kingdom thae ar born to rool by vurchoo of buety, yooth, and wuumanhuud. She did pity th Davis gurls, hoo wer aukward, plaen, and destitoot of escort, exsept a grim papa and three grimer maeden aunts, and she bowd to them in her frendlyest maner as she past; which wuz guud of her, as it permited them to see her dres, and burn with cueriosity to noe hoo her distingwhisht-luuking frend miet be. With th furst burst of th band, Amy's culor roez, her ies began to sparkl, and her feet to tap th flor impaeshently; for she danst wel, and wontedw Laurie to noe it: thaerfor th shok she reseevd can beter be imajind than descriebd, when he sed, in a perfectly tranquil toen,—

"Do U caer to danss?"

"Wun uezhualy duz at a baul."

Her amaezd luuk and qik anser cauzd Laurie to repaer his error as fast as posibl.

"I ment th furst danss. Mae I hav th onor?"

"I can giv U wun if I put off th Count. He danses divinely; but he wil excuez me, as U ar an oeld frend," sed Amy, hoeping 463 that th naem wuud hav a guud efekt, and sho Laurie that she wuz not to be trifled with.

"Niess litl boy, but rather a short Poel to suport

"'A dauter of th gods,

Divinely taul, and moest divinely faer,'"

wuz all th satisfakshon she got, however.

Th set in which thae found themselvs wuz compoezd of English, and Amy wuz compeld to wauk decorusly thru a cotillon, feeling all th whiel as if she cuud danss th Taranchula with a relish. Laurie reziend her to th "niess litl boy," and went to do his duty to Flo, without secuering Amy for th joys to cum, which reprehensibl wont of forthaut wuz properly punisht, for she imeediatly engaejd herself till super, meening to relent if he then gaev any siens of penitenss. She shoed him her baul-book with demure satisfakshon when he stroeld, insted of rushing, up to claem her for th next, a glorius polka-redowa; but his poliet regrets didn't impoez upon her, and when she gallopaded away with th Count, she saw Laurie sit doun by her ant with an akchual expreshon of releef.

That wuz unpardonable; and Amy tuuk no mor noetis of him for a long whiel, exsept a wurd now and then, when she caem to her shaperoen, between th danses, for a nesesaery pin or a moement's rest. Her angger had a guud efekt, however, for she hid it under a smieling faess, and seemd unuezhualy blithe and brilliant. Laurie's ies foloed her with plezher, for she neether rompt nor saunterd, but danst with spirit and graess, maeking th delightsome pastime whut it should be. He verry nacheraly fel to studying her from this nue pointer of vue; and, befor th evening wuz haf oever, had desieded that "litl Amy wuz going to maek a verry charming wuuman."

It wuz a lievly seen, for soon th spirit of th soeshal seezon tuuk possession of every wun, and Christmas merriment maed all faeses shien, harts hapy, and heels liet. Th muezishans fiddled, tooted, and bangd as if thae enjoyd it; everybody danst hoo cuud, and thoes hoo couldn't admierd thaer naebors with uncomon warmth. Th aer wuz dark with Davises, and meny Joneses gambold liek a flok of yung jirafs. Th goelden secretaery darted thru th 464 room liek a meetior, with a dashing Frenchwoman, hoo carpeted th flor with her pink satin traen. Th Sereen Teuton found th super-taebl, and wuz hapy, eating steadily thru th bil of faer, and dismaed th garçons by th ravejes he comited. But th Emperor's frend cuverd himself with glory, for he danst everything, whether he knew it or not, and introduest impromptoo pirouettes when th figuers bewildered him. Th boyish abandon of that stout man wuz charming to behoeld; for, tho he "carried waet," he danst liek an india-ruber baul. He ran, he floo, he pranst; his faess gloed, his bauld hed shone; his coet-taels waevd wieldly, his pumps akchualy twinkled in th aer, and when th muezik stopt, he wiept th drops from his brow, and beemd upon his felo-men liek a French Pickwick without glases.

Amy and her Poel distingwhisht themselvs by equal enthusiasm, but mor graesful ajility; and Laurie found himself involuntarrily keeping tiem to th rithmik riez and faul of th whiet slipers as thae floo by as indefatigably as if wingd. When litl Vladimir fienaly relinqisht her, with assurances that he wuz "desolated to leev so eerly," she wuz redy to rest, and see how her recriant niet had borne his punishment.

It had been successful; for, at three-and-twenty, blieted affections fiend a balm in frendly soesieety, and yung nerves wil thril, yung blud danss, and helthy yung spirits riez, when subjekted to th enchantment of buety, liet, muezik, and moeshon. Laurie had a waekt-up luuk as he roez to giv her his seet; and when he huryd away to bring her sum super, she sed to herself, with a satisfied smiel,—

"Ah, I thaut that wuud do him guud!"

"U luuk liek Balzac's 'Femme peinte par elle-même,'" he sed, as he fand her with wun hand, and held her cofy-cup in th uther.

"Mi roozh wun't cum off;" and Amy rubd her brilliant cheek, and shoed him her whiet gluv with a soeber simplisity that maed him laf outriet.

"Whut do U call this stuf?" he askt, tuching a foeld of her dres that had bloen oever his nee.

"Iloozhon."

465"Guud naem for it; it's verry prity—nue thing, isn't it?"

"It's as oeld as th hils; U hav seen it on duzens of gurls, and U never found out that it wuz prity till now—stupide!"

"I never saw it on U befor, which accounts for th mistaek, U see."

"Nun of that, it is forbiden; I'd rather taek cofy than compliments just now. No, don't lounge, it maeks me nurvus."

Laurie sat bolt upriets, and meekly tuuk her empty plaet, feeling an od sort of plezher in having "litl Amy" order him about; for she had lost her shienes now, and felt an irezistibl dezier to trampl on him, as gurls hav a delietful wae of dooing when lords of creaeshon sho any siens of subjekshon.

"Whaer did U lurn all this sort of thing?" he askt, with a qizikal luuk.

"As 'this sort of thing' is rather a vaeg expreshon, wuud U kiendly explaen?" returnd Amy, noeing perfectly wel whut he ment, but wickedly leeving him to descrieb whut is indescriebabl.

"Wel—th jeneral aer, th stiel, th self-possession, th—th—iloozhon—U noe," laft Laurie, braeking doun, and helping himself out of his qondary with th nue wurd.

Amy wuz gratified, but, of corss, didn't sho it, and demurely anserd, "Forin lief polishes wun in spiet of wun's self; I study as wel as plae; and as for this"—with a litl jescher tord her dres—"whi, tulle is cheep, posies to be had for nuthing, and I am uezd to maeking th moest of mi puur litl things."

Amy rather regreted that last sentenss, feering it wasn't in guud taest; but Laurie liked her th beter for it, and found himself boeth admiering and respekting th braev paeshenss that maed th moest of oportuenity, and th cheerful spirit that cuverd poverty with flowers. Amy did not noe whi he luukt at her so kiendly, nor whi he fild up her book with his oen naem, and devoeted himself to her for th rest of th evening, in th moest delietful maner; but th impulss that raut this agreeabl chaenj wuz th rezult of wun of th nue impreshons which boeth of them wer unconshusly giving and reseeving.


XXXVIII. On th Shelf.

466

Demi and Daisy

XXXVIII.

ON Th SHELF.

In France th yung gurls hav a dul tiem of it till thae ar marryd, when "Vive laa liberté" becums thaer moto. In America, as every wun noes, gurls eerly sien th declaeraeshon of independenss, and enjoy thaer freedom with republican zest; but th yung maetrons uezhualy abdicaet with th furst aer to th throen, and go into a secloozhon aulmoest as cloez as a French nunery, tho by no means as qieet. Whether thae liek it or not, thae ar vurchualy put upon th shelf as soon as th weding exsietment is oever, and moest of them miet exclaem, as did a verry prity wuuman th uther dae, "I'm as handsum as ever, but no wun taeks any noetis of me because I'm marryd."

Not being a belle or eeven a fashonabl laedy, Meg did not expeeri’enss this aflikshon till her baebys wer a yeer oeld, for in her litl wurld primitiv customs prevaeld, and she found herself mor admierd and beluved than ever.

As she wuz a wuumanly litl wuuman, th maturnal instinkt wuz verry strong, and she wuz entierly absorbd in her children, to th uter 467 excloozhon of everything and everybody else. Dae and niet she brooded oever them with tireless devoeshon and anxiety, leeving John to th tender mursy of th help, for an Irish laedy now prezieded oever th kichen department. Being a domestik man, John decidedly mist th wiefly atenshons he had been accustomed to reseev; but, as he adord his baebys, he cheerfuly relinqisht his cumfort for a tiem, supoezing, with mascuelin ignoranss, that peess wuud soon be restord. But three munths past, and thaer wuz no return of repoez; Meg luukt worn and nurvus, th baebys absorbd every mienuet of her tiem, th hous wuz neglekted, and Kity, th cuuk, hoo tuuk lief "aisy," kept him on short commons. When he went out in th morning he wuz bewildered by small comishons for th captiv maama; if he caem gaely in at niet, eeger to embrace his family, he wuz qencht by a "Hush! thae ar just asleep after wurying all dae." If he propoezd a litl amuezment at hoem, "No, it wuud disturb th baebys." If he hinted at a lecture or consert, he wuz anserd with a reproechful luuk, and a desieded "Leev mi children for plezher, never!" His sleep wuz broeken by infant waels and vizhons of a fantom figuer paesing noizlesly to and fro in th woches of th niet; his meels wer interupted by th freeqent fliet of th prezieding jeenyus, hoo dezurted him, haf-helpt, if a mufld churp sounded from th nest abuv; and when he red his paeper of an evening, Demi's colik got into th shiping-list, and Daezy's faul affected th priess of stoks, for Mrs. Brooke wuz oenly interested in domestik nues.

Th puur man wuz verry uncumfortabl, for th children had bereft him of his wief; hoem wuz meerly a nursery, and th perpechual "hushing" maed him feel liek a brootal introoder whenever he entered th saecred precincts of Babyland. He bor it verry paeshently for six munths, and, when no siens of amendment apeerd, he did whut uther paturnal exiles do,—tried to get a litl cumfort elsewhere. Scott had marryd and gon to houskeeping not far off, and John fel into th wae of runing oever for an our or too of an evening, when his oen parlor wuz empty, and his oen wief singing lulabies that seemd to hav no end. Mrs. Scott wuz a lievly, prity gurl, with nuthing to do but be agreeabl, and she performed her mishon moest 468 successfully. Th parlor wuz aulwaes briet and atraktiv, th ches-bord redy, th piano in tuen, plenty of gae gosip, and a niess litl super set forth in tempting stiel.

John wuud hav prefurd his oen fiersied if it had not been so loenly; but as it wuz, he graetfuly tuuk th next best thing, and enjoyd his naebor's soesieety.

Meg rather aproovd of th nue araenjment at furst, and found it a releef to noe that John wuz having a guud tiem insted of doezing in th parlor, or tramping about th hous and waeking th children. But by and by, when th teething wury wuz oever, and th iedols went to sleep at proper ours, leeving maama tiem to rest, she began to mis John, and fiend her wurk-basket dul company, when he wuz not sitting opozit in his oeld dresing-goun, comfortably scorching his slipers on th fender. She wuud not ask him to stae at hoem, but felt injerd because he did not noe that she wontedw him without being toeld, entierly forgeting th meny evenings he had waeted for her in vaen. She wuz nurvus and worn out with woching and wury, and in that unreezonabl fraem of miend which th best of muthers ocaezhonaly expeeri’enss when domestik caers opres them. Wont of exercise robs them of cheerfulnes, and too much devoeshon to that iedol of American wimen, th teepot, maeks them feel as if thae wer all nurv and no musl.

"Yes," she wuud sae, luuking in th glas, "I'm geting oeld and ugly; John doesn't fiend me interesting any longer, so he leevs his faeded wief and goes to see his prity naebor, hoo has no incumbrances. Wel, th baebys luv me; thae don't caer if I am thin and pale, and haeven't tiem to crimp mi haer; thae ar mi cumfort, and sum dae John wil see whut I've gladly sacrifiest for them, wun't he, mi precious?"

To which pathetik apeel Daezy wuud anser with a coo, or Demi with a cro, and Meg wuud put by her lamentaeshons for a maturnal revel, which soothd her solitued for th tiem being. But th paen increest as politiks absorbd John, hoo wuz aulwaes runing oever to discus interesting points with Scott, qiet unconshus that Meg mist him. Not a wurd did she sae, however, till her muther found her in teers wun dae, and insisted on noeing whut th maeter wuz, for Meg's drooping spirits had not escaept her obzervaeshon.

469 "I wouldn't tel any wun exsept U, muther; but I reealy do need advice, for, if John goes on so much longer I miet as wel be widowed," replied Mrs. Brooke, drieing her teers on Daezy's bib, with an injerd aer.

"Goes on how, mi deer?" askt her muther anxiously.

"He's away all dae, and at niet, when I wont to see him, he is continually going oever to th Scotts'. It isn't faer that I should hav th hardest wurk, and never any amuezment. Men ar verry selfish, eeven th best of them."

"So ar wimen; don't blaem John till U see whaer U ar rong yuurself."

"But it can't be riet for him to neglekt me."

"Don't U neglekt him?"

"Whi, muther, I thaut U'd taek mi part!"

"So I do, as far as sympathizing goes; but I think th fault is yuurs, Meg."

"I don't see how."

"Let me sho U. Did John ever neglekt U, as U call it, whiel U maed it a pointer to giv him yuur soesieety of an evening, his oenly leezher tiem?"

"No; but I can't do it now, with too baebys to tend."

"I think U cuud, deer; and I think U aut. Mae I speek qiet freely, and wil U remember that it's muther hoo blaems as wel as muther hoo sympathizes?"

"Indeed I wil! Speek to me as if I wer litl Meg again. I ofen feel as if I needed teeching mor than ever sinss thees baebys luuk to me for everything."

Meg droo her loe chaer besied her muther's, and, with a litl interupshon in eether lap, th too wimen rokt and taukt luvingly together, feeling that th tie of mutherhuud maed them mor wun than ever.

"U hav oenly maed th mistaek that moest yung wievs maek,—forgoten yuur duty to yuur huzband in yuur luv for yuur children. A verry nacheral and forgivabl mistaek, Meg, but wun that had beter be remedied befor U taek to diferent waes; for children should draw U neerer than ever, not separet U, as if thae wer all yuurs, and 470 John had nuthing to do but suport them. I've seen it for sum weeks, but hav not spoeken, feeling shuur it wuud cum riet in tiem."

"I'm afraed it wun't. If I ask him to stae, he'll think I'm jelus; and I wouldn't insult him by such an iedeea. He doesn't see that I wont him, and I don't noe how to tel him without wurds."

"Maek it so plezant he wun't wont to go away. Mi deer, he's longing for his litl hoem; but it isn't hoem without U, and U ar aulwaes in th nursery."

"Oughtn't I to be thaer?"

"Not all th tiem; too much confienment maeks U nurvus, and then U ar unfited for everything. Besieds, U oe sumthing to John as wel as to th baebys; don't neglekt huzband for children, don't shut him out of th nursery, but teech him how to help in it. His plaess is thaer as wel as yuurs, and th children need him; let him feel that he has his part to do, and he wil do it gladly and faethfuly, and it wil be beter for U all."

"U reealy think so, muther?"

"I noe it, Meg, for I've tried it; and I seldom giv advice unles I've proovd its practicability. When U and Jo wer litl, I went on just as U ar, feeling as if I didn't do mi duty unles I devoeted mieself hoely to U. Puur faather tuuk to his books, after I had refuezd all ofers of help, and left me to tri mi experriment aloen. I strugld along as wel as I cuud, but Jo wuz too much for me. I neerly spoilt her by induljenss. U wer poorly, and I wuryd about U till I fel sik mieself. Then faather caem to th rescue, qieetly manejd everything, and maed himself so helpful that I saw mi mistaek, and never hav been aebl to get on without him sinss. That is th seecret of our hoem hapynes: he duz not let business ween him from th litl caers and duties that affect us all, and I tri not to let domestik wurys destroy mi interest in his pursuits. Eech do our part aloen in meny things, but at hoem we wurk together, aulwaes."

"It is so, muther; and mi graet wish is to be to mi huzband and children whut U hav been to yuurs. Sho me how; I'll do anything U sae."

"U aulwaes wer mi docile dauter. Wel, deer, if I wer U, I'd let John hav mor to do with th manejment of Demi, for th 471 boy needs traening, and it's nun too soon to begin. Then I'd do whut I hav ofen propoezd, let Hannah cum and help U; she is a capital nurss, and U mae trust th precious baebys to her whiel U do mor houswurk. U need th exercise, Hannah wuud enjoy th rest, and John wuud fiend his wief again. Go out mor; keep cheerful as wel as busy, for U ar th sunshine-maeker of th family, and if U get dizmal thaer is no faer wether. Then I'd tri to taek an interest in whotever John lieks,—tauk with him, let him red to U, exchange iedeeas, and help eech uther in that wae. Don't shut yuurself up in a bandbox because U ar a wuuman, but understand whut is going on, and ejucaet yuurself to taek yuur part in th wurld's wurk, for it all affects U and yuurs."

"John is so sensibl, I'm afraed he wil think I'm stoopid if I ask qeschons about politiks and things."

"I don't beleev he wuud; luv cuvers a multitued of sins, and of hoom cuud U ask mor freely than of him? Tri it, and see if he doesn't fiend yuur soesieety far mor agreeabl than Mrs. Scott's supers."

"I wil. Puur John! I'm afraed I hav neglekted him sadly, but I thaut I wuz riet, and he never sed anything."

"He tried not to be selfish, but he has felt rather forlorn, I fansy. This is just th tiem, Meg, when yung marryd peepl ar apt to gro apart, and th verry tiem when thae aut to be moest together; for th furst tenderness soon waers off, unles caer is taeken to prezurv it; and no tiem is so buetiful and precious to paerents as th furst yeers of th litl lievs given them to traen. Don't let John be a straenjer to th baebys, for thae wil do mor to keep him saef and hapy in this wurld of trieal and temptaeshon than anything else, and thru them U wil lurn to noe and luv wun anuther as U should. Now, deer, guud-by; think oever muther's preechment, akt upon it if it seems guud, and God bles U all!"

Meg did think it oever, found it guud, and akted upon it, tho th furst atempt wuz not maed exaktly as she pland to hav it. Of corss th children tyrannized oever her, and roold th hous as so on as thae found out that kiking and squalling brought them whotever thae wontedw. Maama wuz an abjekt slaev to thaer caprices, but papa 472 wuz not so eezily subjugaeted, and ocaezhonaly aflikted his tender spouse by an atempt at paturnal disiplin with his obstreperous sun. For Demi inherrited a trifle of his sier's furmnes of carrakter,—we wun't call it obstinasy,—and when he maed up his litl miend to hav or to do anything, all th king's horses and all th king's men cuud not chaenj that pertinacious litl miend. Maama thaut th deer too yung to be taut to conker his prejudises, but papa beleevd that it never wuz too soon to lurn oebeedi’enss; so Master Demi eerly discuverd that when he undertuuk to "wrastle" with "parpar," he aulwaes got th wurst of it; yet, liek th Englishman, Baeby respekted th man hoo conkerd him, and luvd th faather hoos graev "No, no," wuz mor impresiv than all maama's luv-pats.

A fue daes after th tauk with her muther, Meg rezolvd to tri a soeshal evening with John; so she orderd a niess super, set th parlor in order, drest herself pritily, and put th children to bed eerly, that nuthing should interfeer with her experriment. But, unforchunatly, Demi's moest unconkerabl prejudis wuz against going to bed, and that niet he desieded to go on a rampage; so puur Meg sung and rokt, toeld storys and tried every sleep-provoeking wiel she cuud deviez, but all in vaen, th big ies wouldn't shut; and long after Daezy had gon to byelow, liek th chuby litl bunch of guud-naechuur she wuz, nauty Demi lae staering at th liet, with th moest discurejingly wied-awake expreshon of countenanss.

"Wil Demi lie still liek a guud boy, whiel maama runs doun and givs puur papa his tee?" askt Meg, as th haul-dor softly cloezd, and th wel-noen step went tiptoeing into th diening-room.

"Me has tee!" sed Demi, prepaering to join in th revel.

"No; but I'll saev U sum litl cakies for brekfast, if U'll go bye-by liek Daezy. Wil U, lovey?"

"Iss!" and Demi shut his ies tight, as if to cach sleep and hurry th dezierd dae.

Taeking advantej of th propitious moement, Meg slipt away, and ran doun to greet her huzband with a smieling faess, and th litl bloo boe in her haer which wuz his especial admeraeshon. He saw it at wunss, and sed, with pleezd serpriez,—

"Whi, litl muther, how gae we ar to-niet. Do U expect company?"

473 "Oenly U, deer."

"Is it a burthdae, anniversary, or anything?"

"No; I'm tierd of being a dowdy, so I drest up as a chaenj. U aulwaes maek yuurself niess for taebl, no mater how tierd U ar; so whi shouldn't I when I hav th tiem?"

"I do it out of respekt to U, mi deer," sed oeld-fashond John.

"Ditto, ditto, Mr. Brooke," laft Meg, luuking yung and prity again, as she noded to him oever th teepot.

"Wel, it's aultogether delietful, and liek oeld times. This taests riet. I drink yuur helth, deer." And John sipt his tee with an aer of reposeful rapcher, which wuz of verry short duration, however; for, as he put doun his cup, th dor-handl ratld misteeriusly, and a litl vois wuz hurd, saeing impaeshently,—

"Opy doy; me's tummin!"

"It's that nauty boy. I toeld him to go to sleep aloen, and heer he is, dounstaers, geting his deth a-coeld patering oever that canvas," sed Meg, ansering th call.

Mornin' now

"Mornin' now," anounst Demi, in a joyful toen, as he entered, with his long niet-goun graesfuly festooned oever his arm, and every curl bobing gaely as he pranst about th taebl, ieing th "cakies" with luving glanses.

"No, it isn't morning yet. U must go to bed, and not trubl puur maama; then U can hav th litl caek with sugar on it."

"Me luvs parpar," sed th artful wun, prepaering to cliem th paturnal nee, and revel in forbiden joys. But John shuuk his hed, and sed to Meg,—

"If U toeld him to stae up thaer, and go to sleep aloen, maek him do it, or he wil never lurn to miend U."

"Yes, of corss. Cum, Demi;" and Meg led her sun away, feeling 474 a strong dezier to spank th litl marplot hoo hopt besied her, laeboring under th deloozhon that th bribe wuz to be administerd as soon as thae reached th nursery.

Nor wuz he disapointed; for that short-sieted wuuman akchualy gaev him a lump of sugar, tukt him into his bed, and forbaed any mor promenades till morning.

"Iss!" sed Demi th perjured, blissfully suking his sugar, and regarding his furst atempt as eminently successful.

Meg returnd to her plaess, and super wuz progresing pleasantly, when th litl goest waukt again, and expoezd th maturnal delinqensys by boeldly demanding,—

"Mor sudar, marmar."

"Now this wun't do," sed John, hardening his hart against th engaejing litl siner. "We shal never noe any peess till that chield lurns to go to bed properly. U hav maed a slaev of yuurself long enough; giv him wun leson, and then thaer wil be an end of it. Put him in his bed and leev him, Meg."

"He wun't stae thaer; he never duz, unles I sit by him."

"I'll manej him. Demi, go upstaers, and get into yuur bed, as maama bids U."

"S'ant!" replied th yung rebl, helping himself to th cuveted "cakie," and begining to eat th saem with calm audasity.

"U must never sae that to papa; I shal carry U if U don't go yuurself."

"Go 'wae; me don't luv parpar;" and Demi retierd to his muther's scurts for protection.

But eeven that refuej proovd unavaeling, for he wuz deliverd oever to th enemy, with a "Be jentl with him, John," which struk th culprit with dismae; for when maama dezurted him, then th jujment-dae wuz at hand. Bereft of his caek, defrauded of his frolik, and borne away by a strong hand to that detested bed, puur Demi cuud not restraen his rath, but oepenly defied papa, and kikt and screemd lustily all th wae upstaers. Th mienuet he wuz put into bed on wun sied, he roeld out on th uther, and maed for th dor, oenly to be ignominusly caut up by th tael of his litl toega, and put bak again, which lievly performance wuz kept up till th yung 475 man's strength gaev out, when he devoeted himself to roring at th top of his vois. This voekal exercise uezhualy conkerd Meg; but John sat as unmoovd as th poest which is popuelarly beleevd to be def. No coexing, no sugar, no lulabi, no story; eeven th liet wuz put out, and oenly th red glo of th fier enlivened th "big dark" which Demi regarded with cueriosity rather than feer. This nue order of things disgusted him, and he hould dizmaly for "marmar," as his anggry pashons subsided, and recolekshons of his tender bondwoman returnd to th captiv autocrat. Th plaentiv wael which succeeded th pashonat ror went to Meg's hart, and she ran up to sae beseechingly,—

"Let me stae with him; he'll be guud, now, John."

"No, mi deer, I've toeld him he must go to sleep, as U bid him; and he must, if I stae heer all niet."

"But he'll cri himself sik," pleeded Meg, reproeching herself for dezurting her boy.

"No, he wun't, he's so tierd he wil soon drop off, and then th mater is setld; for he wil understand that he has got to miend. Don't interfeer; I'll manej him."

"He's mi chield, and I can't hav his spirit broeken by harshnes."

"He's mi chield, and I wun't hav his temper spoilt by induljenss. Go doun, mi deer, and leev th boy to me."

When John spoek in that masterful toen, Meg aulwaes oebaed, and never regreted her docility.

"Pleez let me kis him wunss, John?"

"Surtenly. Demi, sae 'guud-niet' to maama, and let her go and rest, for she is verry tierd with taeking caer of U all dae."

Meg aulwaes insisted upon it that th kis wun th viktory; for after it wuz given, Demi sobd mor qieetly, and lae qiet still at th bottom of th bed, whither he had rigld in his anguish of miend.

"Puur litl man, he's worn out with sleep and crieing. I'll cuver him up, and then go and set Meg's hart at rest," thaut John, creeping to th bedside, hoeping to fiend his rebelyus aer asleep.

But he wasn't; for th moement his faather peept at him, Demi's ies oepend, his litl chin began to qiver, and he put up his arms, saeing, with a penitent hicup, "Me's dood, now."

476 Sitting on th staers, outsied, Meg wunderd at th long silence which foloed th upror; and, after imajining all sorts of imposibl accidents, she slipt into th room, to set her feers at rest. Demi lae fast asleep; not in his uezhual spred-eegl atitued, but in a subdued bunch, cudld cloez in th surkl of his faather's arm and hoelding his faather's fingger, as if he felt that justis wuz temperd with mursy, and had gon to sleep a sader and a wiezer baeby. So held, John had waeted with wuumanly paeshenss till th litl hand relaxt its hoeld; and, whiel waeting, had faulen asleep, mor tierd by that tussle with his sun than with his hoel dae's wurk.

As Meg stuud woching th too faeses on th pilo, she smield to herself, and then slipt away again, saeing, in a satisfied toen,—

"I never need feer that John wil be too harsh with mi baebys: he duz noe how to manej them, and wil be a graet help, for Demi is geting too much for me."

When John caem doun at last, expecting to fiend a pensiv or reproechful wief, he wuz agreeably serpriezd to fiend Meg plasidly trimming a bonnet, and to be greeted with th reqest to red sumthing about th elekshon, if he wuz not too tierd. John saw in a mienuet that a revolooshon of sum kiend wuz going on, but wiezly askt no qeschons, noeing that Meg wuz such a transpaerent litl purson, she couldn't keep a seecret to saev her lief, and thaerfor th cloo wuud soon apeer. He red a long debaet with th moest aemiabl redynes, and then explaend it in his moest loosid maner, whiel Meg tried to luuk deeply interested, to ask intelijent qeschons, and keep her thoughts from waandering from th staet of th naeshon to th staet of her bonnet. In her seecret soel, however, she desieded that politiks wer as bad as mathematiks, and that th mishon of politishans seemd to be calling eech uther naems; but she kept thees feminine iedeeas to herself, and when John paused, shuuk her hed, and sed with whut she thaut diplomatik ambigueity,—

"Wel, I reealy don't see whut we ar cuming to."

John laft, and wocht her for a mienuet, as she poizd a prity litl preparaeshon of laess and flowers on her hand, and regarded it with th jenuein interest which his harang had faeld to waken.

"She is trieing to liek politiks for mi saek, so I'll tri and liek 477 milinery for hers, that's oenly faer," thaut John th Just, ading aloud,—

"That's verry prity; is it whut U call a brekfast-cap?"

My dear man, it's a bonnet

"Mi deer man, it's a bonnet! Mi verry best go-to-consert-and-theeater bonnet."

"I beg yuur pardon; it wuz so small, I nacheraly mistuuk it for wun of th fli-away things U sumtiems waer. How do U keep it on?"

"Thees bits of laess ar fasend under th chin with a roezbud, so;" and Meg ilustraeted by putting on th bonnet, and regarding him with an aer of calm satisfakshon that wuz irezistibl.

"It's a luv of a bonnet, but I prefur th faess insied, for it luuks yung and hapy again," and John kist th smieling faess, to th graet detriment of th roezbud under th chin.

"I'm glad U liek it, for I wont U to taek me to wun of th nue conserts sum niet; I reealy need sum muezik to put me in tuen. Wil U, pleez?"

"Of corss I wil, with all mi hart, or anywhere else U liek. 478 U hav been shut up so long, it wil do U no end of guud, and I shal enjoy it, of all things. Whut put it into yuur hed, litl muther?"

"Wel, I had a tauk with Marmee th uther dae, and toeld her how nurvus and cros and out of sorts I felt, and she sed I needed chaenj and les caer; so Hannah is to help me with th children, and I'm to see to things about th hous mor, and now and then hav a litl fun, just to keep me from geting to be a fijety, broeken-doun oeld wuuman befor mi tiem. It's oenly an experriment, John, and I wont to tri it for yuur saek as much as for mien, because I've neglekted U shaemfuly laetly, and I'm going to maek hoem whut it uezd to be, if I can. U don't objekt, I hoep?"

Never miend whut John sed, or whut a verry narro escaep th litl bonnet had from uter rooin; all that we hav any business to noe, is that John did not apeer to objekt, jujing from th chaenjes which grajualy tuuk plaess in th hous and its inmaets. It wuz not all Paradise by any means, but every wun wuz beter for th division of laebor system; th children throve under th paturnal rool, for accurate, steadfast John brought order and oebeedi’enss into Babydom, whiel Meg recuverd her spirits and compoezd her nerves by plenty of hoelsum exercise, a litl plezher, and much confidenshal conversation with her sensibl huzband. Hoem groo hoem-liek again, and John had no wish to leev it, unles he tuuk Meg with him. Th Scotts caem to th Brookes' now, and every wun found th litl hous a cheerful plaess, fuul of hapynes, content, and family luv. Eeven gae Sallie Moffatt liked to go thaer. "It is aulwaes so qieet and plezant heer; it duz me guud, Meg," she uezd to sae, luuking about her with wistful ies, as if trieing to discuver th charm, that she miet uez it in her graet hous, fuul of splendid loenlynes; for thaer wer no rieotus, suny-faest baebys thaer, and Ned livd in a wurld of his oen, whaer thaer wuz no plaess for her.

This hous-hoeld hapynes did not cum all at wunss, but John and Meg had found th kee to it, and eech yeer of marryd lief taut them how to uez it, unloking th treasuries of reeal hoem-luv and muechual helpfulness, which th poorest mae possess, and th richest cannot bie. This is th sort of shelf on which yung wievs and 479 muthers mae consent to be laed, saef from th restles fret and feever of th wurld, fiending loyal luvers in th litl suns and dauters hoo cling to them, undaunted by sorro, poverty, or aej; wauking sied by sied, thru faer and stormy wether, with a faethful frend, hoo is, in th troo senss of th guud oeld Saxon wurd, th "hous-band," and lurning, as Meg lurnd, that a wuuman's hapyest kingdom is hoem, her hieest onor th art of rooling it, not as a qeen, but a wiez wief and muther.

Tail-piece

XXXIX. Laezy Laurence.

480

Sat piping on a stone while his goats skipped
Laurie threw himself down on the turf

XXXIX.

Laezy LAURENCE.

Laurie went to Niess intending to stae a week, and remaend a munth. He wuz tierd of waandering about aloen, and Amy's familyar presence seemd to giv a hoem-liek charm to th forin seens in which she bor a part. He rather mist th "peting" he uezd to reseev, and enjoyd a taest of it again; for no atenshons, however flatering, from straenjers, wer haf so plezant as th sisterly adoration of th gurls at hoem. Amy never wuud pet him liek th others, but she wuz verry glad to see him now, and qiet clung to him, feeling that he wuz th reprezentativ of th deer family for hoom she longed mor than she wuud confes. Thae nacheraly tuuk cumfort in eech uther's soesieety, and wer much together, rieding, wauking, dansing, or daudling, for, at Niess, no wun can be verry industrius duuring th gae seezon. But, whiel apparently amuezing themselvs in th moest careless fashon, thae wer haf-consciously maeking discuverys and forming opinyons about eech uther. Amy roez daily in th estimation of her frend, but he sunk in hers, and eech felt th trooth befor a wurd 481 wuz spoeken. Amy tried to pleez, and succeeded, for she wuz graetful for th meny plezhers he gaev her, and re-paed him with th litl survises to which wuumanly wimen noe how to lend an indescriebabl charm. Laurie maed no efort of any kiend, but just let himself drift along as comfortably as posibl, trieing to forget, and feeling that all wimen oed him a kiend wurd because wun had been coeld to him. It cost him no efort to be jenerus, and he wuud hav given Amy all th trinkets in Niess if she wuud hav taeken them; but, at th saem tiem, he felt that he cuud not chaenj th opinyon she wuz forming of him, and he rather dreded th keen bloo ies that seemd to woch him with such haf-sorroeful, haf-scornful serpriez.

"All th rest hav gon to Monaco for th dae; I prefurd to stae at hoem and riet leters. Thae ar dun now, and I am going to Valrosa to skech; wil U cum?" sed Amy, as she joind Laurie wun luvly dae when he lounged in as uezhual, about noon.

"Wel, yes; but isn't it rather worm for such a long wauk?" he anserd sloely, for th shaeded salon luukt invieting, after th glaer without.

"I'm going to hav th litl carrej, and Baptiste can driev, so U'll hav nuthing to do but hoeld yuur umbrela and keep yuur gluvs niess," returnd Amy, with a sarcastik glanss at th imacuelet kid, which wer a week pointer with Laurie.

"Then I'll go with plezher;" and he put out his hand for her skech-book. But she tukt it under her arm with a sharp—

"Don't trubl yuurself; it's no exertion to me, but U don't luuk equal to it."

Laurie lifted his iebrows, and foloed at a leezherly paess as she ran dounstaers; but when thae got into th carrej he tuuk th raens himself, and left litl Baptiste nuthing to do but foeld his arms and faul asleep on his purch.

Th too never quarrelled,—Amy wuz too wel-bred, and just now Laurie wuz too laezy; so, in a mienuet he peept under her hat-brim with an inqiering aer; she anserd with a smiel, and thae went on together in th moest amicabl maner.

It wuz a luvly driev, along wiending roeds rich in th picturesque seens that deliet buety-luving ies. Heer an ancient monasterry, 482 whenss th solem chanting of th munks caem doun to them. Thaer a baer-leged sheperd, in wuuden shoos, pointed hat, and ruf jaket oever wun shoulder, sat pieping on a stoen, whiel his goets skipt amung th roks or lae at his feet. Meek, mous-culord donkys, laeden with panniers of freshly-cut gras, past by, with a prity gurl in a capaline sitting between th green piels, or an oeld wuuman spining with a distaf as she went. Broun, soft-ied children ran out from th qaent stoen huvels to ofer noezgaes, or bunches of orenjes still on th bow. Narld oliv-trees cuverd th hils with thaer dusky foelej, froot hung goelden in th orchard, and graet scarlet anemones frinjd th roedsied; whiel beyond green sloeps and cragy hiets, th Marritiem Alps roez sharp and whiet against th bloo Italian ski.

Valrosa wel dezurvd its naem, for, in that cliemat of perpechual sumer, roezes blossomed everywhaer. Thae overhung th archway, thrust themselvs between th bars of th graet gaet with a sweet welcum to passers-by, and liend th avenu, wiending thru lemon-trees and fethery paams up to th vila on th hil. Every shadoey nuuk, whaer seets invieted wun to stop and rest, wuz a mas of bloom; every cool groto had its marbl nimf smieling from a vael of flowers, and every founten reflekted crimson, whiet, or pale pink roezes, leening doun to smiel at thaer oen buety. Roezes cuverd th wauls of th hous, draept th cornises, cliemd th pillars, and ran rieot oever th balustrade of th wied terris, whenss wun luukt doun on th suny Mediterranean, and th whiet-wauld sity on its shor.

"This is a reguelar hunymoon Paradise, isn't it? Did U ever see such roezes?" askt Amy, pausing on th terris to enjoy th vue, and a lugzhuurius whiff of perfume that caem waandering by.

"No, nor felt such thorns," returnd Laurie, with his thum in his mouth, after a vaen atempt to capcher a solitaery scarlet flower that groo just beyond his reech.

"Tri loeer doun, and pik thoes that hav no thorns," sed Amy, gathering three of th tieny creem-culord wuns that stard th waul behind her. She put them in his buton-hoel, as a peess-ofering, and he stuud a mienuet luuking doun at them with a cuerius expreshon, for in th Italian part of his naechuur thaer wuz a tuch of superstition, 483 and he wuz just then in that staet of haf-sweet, haf-biter melancholy, when imajinativ yung men fiend significanss in trifles, and food for roemanss everywhaer. He had thaut of Jo in reeching after th thorny red roez, for vivid flowers becaem her, and she had ofen worn wuns liek that from th greenhous at hoem. Th pale roezes Amy gaev him wer th sort that th Italians lae in ded hands, never in briedal reeths, and, for a moement, he wunderd if th oemen wuz for Jo or for himself; but th next instant his American common-senss got th beter of sentimentality, and he laft a hartyer laf than Amy had hurd sinss he caem.

"It's guud advice; U'd beter taek it and saev yuur finggers," she sed, thinking her speech amuezd him.

"Thank U, I wil," he anserd in jest, and a fue munths laeter he did it in urnest.

"Laurie, when ar U going to yuur grandfaather?" she askt prezently, as she setld herself on a rustik seet.

"Verry soon."

"U hav sed that a duzen times within th last three weeks."

"I daer sae; short ansers saev trubl."

"He expects U, and U reealy aut to go."

"Hospitabl creecher! I noe it."

"Then whi don't U do it?"

"Nacheral depravity, I supoez."

"Nacheral indolenss, U meen. It's reealy dredful!" and Amy luukt seveer.

"Not so bad as it seems, for I should oenly plaeg him if I went, so I miet as wel stae, and plaeg U a litl longer, U can baer it beter; in fakt, I think it agrees with U exselently;" and Laurie compoezd himself for a lounge on th braud ledge of th balustrade.

Amy shuuk her hed, and oepend her skech-book with an aer of rezignaeshon; but she had maed up her miend to lecture "that boy," and in a mienuet she began again.

"Whut ar U dooing just now?"

"Woching lizards."

"No, no; I meen whut do U intend and wish to do?"

"Smoek a sigaret, if U'll alow me."

484 "How provoeking U ar! I don't aproov of sigars, and I wil oenly alow it on condishon that U let me put U into mi skech; I need a figuer."

"With all th plezher in lief. How wil U hav me,—fuul-length or three-qorters, on mi hed or mi heels? I should respektfuly sugjest a recumbent posture, then put yuurself in aulso, and call it 'Dolce far niente.'"

"Stae as U ar, and go to sleep if U liek. I intend to wurk hard," sed Amy, in her moest enerjetik toen.

"Whut delietful enthusiasm!" and he leend against a taul urn with an aer of entier satisfakshon.

"Whut wuud Jo sae if she saw U now?" askt Amy impaeshently, hoeping to stur him up by th menshon of her still mor enerjetik sister's naem.

"As uezhual, 'Go away, Teddy, I'm busy!'" He laft as he spoek, but th laf wuz not nacheral, and a shaed past oever his faess, for th uteranss of th familyar naem tucht th woond that wuz not heeld yet. Boeth toen and shado struk Amy, for she had seen and hurd them befor, and now she luukt up in tiem to cach a nue expreshon on Laurie's faess,—a hard, biter luuk, fuul of paen, dissatisfaction, and regret. It wuz gon befor she cuud study it, and th listles expreshon bak again. She wocht him for a moement with artistik plezher, thinking how liek an Italian he luukt, as he lae basking in th sun with uncovered hed, and ies fuul of suthern dreaminess; for he seemd to hav forgoten her, and faulen into a reverie.

"U luuk liek th effigy of a yung niet asleep on his toom," she sed, carefully traesing th wel-cut profile defiend against th dark stoen.

"Wish I wuz!"

"That's a foolish wish, unles U hav spoilt yuur lief. U ar so chaenjd, I sumtiems think—" thaer Amy stopt, with a haf-timid, haf-wistful luuk, mor significant than her unfinisht speech.

Laurie saw and understuud th affectionate anxiety which she hezitaeted to expres, and luuking straet into her ies, sed, just as he uezd to sae it to her muther,—

485 "It's all riet, maa'am."

That satisfied her and set at rest th doubts that had begun to wury her laetly. It aulso tucht her, and she shoed that it did, by th corjal toen in which she sed,—

"I'm glad of that! I didn't think U'd been a verry bad boy, but I fansyd U miet hav waested muny at that wiked Baden-Baden, lost yuur hart to sum charming Frenchwoman with a huzband, or got into sum of th scraeps that yung men seem to consider a nesesaery part of a forin tour. Don't stae out thaer in th sun; cum and lie on th gras heer, and 'let us be frendly,' as Jo uezd to sae when we got in th soefa-corner and toeld seecrets."

Laurie threw himself down on the turf

Laurie oebeedi’ently throo himself doun on th turf, and began to amuez himself by stiking daezys into th ribons of Amy's hat, that lae thaer.

"I'm all redy for th seecrets;" and he glanst up with a desieded expreshon of interest in his ies.

486 "I've nun to tel; U mae begin."

"Haeven't wun to bles mieself with. I thaut perhaps U'd had sum nues from hoem."

"U hav hurd all that has cum laetly. Don't U heer ofen? I fansyd Jo wuud send U voluems."

"She's verry busy; I'm roeving about so, it's imposibl to be reguelar, U noe. When do U begin yuur graet wurk of art, Raphaella?" he askt, chaenjing th subjekt abruptly after anuther pause, in which he had been wundering if Amy knew his seecret, and wontedw to tauk about it.

"Never," she anserd, with a despondent but desieded aer. "Rome tuuk all th vanity out of me; for after seeing th wunders thaer, I felt too insignificant to liv, and gaev up all mi foolish hoeps in despaer."

"Whi should U, with so much enerjy and talent?"

"That's just whi,—because talent isn't jeenyus, and no amount of enerjy can maek it so. I wont to be graet, or nuthing. I wun't be a common-plaess dauber, so I don't intend to tri any mor."

"And whut ar U going to do with yuurself now, if I mae ask?"

"Polish up mi uther talents, and be an ornament to soesieety, if I get th chanss."

It wuz a carrakteristik speech, and sounded daring; but audasity becums yung peepl, and Amy's ambishon had a guud foundaeshon. Laurie smield, but he liked th spirit with which she tuuk up a nue purpos when a long-cherrisht wun died, and spent no tiem lamenting.

"Guud! and heer is whaer Fred Vaughn cums in, I fansy."

Amy prezurvd a discrete silence, but thaer wuz a conshus luuk in her douncast faess, that maed Laurie sit up and sae gravely,—

"Now I'm going to plae bruther, and ask qeschons. Mae I?"

"I don't promis to anser."

"Yuur faess wil, if yuur tung wun't. U aren't wuuman of th wurld enough yet to hied yuur feelings, mi deer. I hurd roomors about Fred and U last yeer, and it's mi private opinyon that, if he had not been called hoem so sudenly and detaend so long, sumthing wuud hav cum of it—hae?"

487 "That's not for me to sae," wuz Amy's prim replie; but her lips wuud smiel, and thaer wuz a traitorous sparkl of th ie, which betraed that she knew her power and enjoyd th nolej.

"U ar not engaejd, I hoep?" and Laurie luukt verry elder-brutherly and graev all of a suden.

"No."

"But U wil be, if he cums bak and goes properly doun upon his nees, wun't U?"

"Verry liekly."

"Then U ar fond of oeld Fred?"

"I cuud be, if I tried."

"But U don't intend to tri till th proper moement? Bles mi soel, whut unurthly prudence! He's a guud felo, Amy, but not th man I fansyd U'd liek."

"He is rich, a jentlman, and has delietful maners," began Amy, trieing to be qiet cool and dignified, but feeling a litl ashamed of herself, in spiet of th sincerity of her intenshons.

"I understand; qeens of soesieety can't get on without muny, so U meen to maek a guud mach, and start in that wae? Qiet riet and proper, as th wurld goes, but it sounds od from th lips of wun of yuur muther's gurls."

"Troo, nevertheles."

A short speech, but th qieet desizhon with which it wuz uterd contrasted cueriusly with th yung speeker. Laurie felt this instinktivly, and laed himself doun again, with a senss of disapointment which he cuud not explaen. His luuk and silence, as wel as a surten inward self-disaprooval, rufld Amy, and maed her rezolv to deliver her lecture without delae.

"I wish U'd do me th faevor to rouz yuurself a litl," she sed sharply.

"Do it for me, thaer's a deer gurl."

"I cuud, if I tried;" and she luukt as if she wuud liek dooing it in th moest summary stiel.

"Tri, then; I giv U leev," returnd Laurie, hoo enjoyd having sum wun to teez, after his long abstinenss from his faevorit pastime.

"U'd be anggry in fiev minits."

488 "I'm never anggry with U. It taeks too flints to maek a fier: U ar as cool and soft as sno."

"U don't noe whut I can do; sno produces a glo and a tingle, if aplied rietly. Yuur indiferens is haf affectation, and a guud sturing up wuud proov it."

"Stur away; it wun't hurt me and it mae amuez U, as th big man sed when his litl wief beet him. Regard me in th liet of a huzband or a carpet, and beet till U ar tierd, if that sort of exercise agrees with U."

Being decidedly netld herself, and longing to see him shaek off th apathy that so aulterd him, Amy sharpend boeth tung and pensil, and began:—

"Flo and I hav got a nue naem for U; it's 'Laezy Laurence.' How do U liek it?"

She thaut it wuud anoy him; but he oenly foelded his arms under his hed, with an imperturbabl "That's not bad. Thank U, laedys."

"Do U wont to noe whut I onestly think of U?"

"Piening to be toeld."

"Wel, I despiez U."

If she had eeven sed "I haet U," in a petulant or coquettish toen, he wuud hav laft, and rather liked it; but th graev, aulmoest sad, accent of her vois maed him oepen his ies, and ask qikly,—

"Whi, if U pleez?"

"Because, with every chanss for being guud, uesful, and hapy, U ar faulty, laezy, and mizerabl."

"Strong langgwej, mademezel."

"If U liek it, I'll go on."

"Prae, do; it's qiet interesting."

"I thaut U'd fiend it so; selfish peepl aulwaes liek to tauk about themselvs."

"Am I selfish?" Th qeschon slipt out involuntarrily and in a toen of serpriez, for th wun vurchoo on which he prided himself wuz jenerosity.

"Yes, verry selfish," continued Amy, in a calm, cool vois, twice as efektiv, just then, as an anggry wun. "I'll sho U how, for I've studyd U whiel we hav been froliking, and I'm not at all satisfied 489 with U. Heer U hav been abraud neerly six munths, and dun nuthing but waest tiem and muny and disapoint yuur frends."

"Isn't a felo to hav any plezher after a foer-yeers griend?"

"U don't luuk as if U'd had much; at any raet, U ar nun th beter for it, as far as I can see. I sed, when we furst met, that U had improovd. Now I taek it all bak, for I don't think U haf so niess as when I left U at hoem. U hav groen abominably laezy; U liek gosip, and waest tiem on frivolus things; U ar contented to be peted and admierd by sily peepl, insted of being luvd and respekted by wiez wuns. With muny, talent, pozishon, helth, and buety,—ah, U liek that, Oeld Vanity! but it's th trooth, so I can't help saeing it,—with all thees splendid things to uez and enjoy, U can fiend nuthing to do but daudl; and, insted of being th man U miet and aut to be, U ar oenly—" Thaer she stopt, with a luuk that had boeth paen and pity in it.

"Saent Laurence on a gridieron," aded Laurie, blandly finishing th sentenss. But th lecture began to taek efekt, for thaer wuz a wied-awake sparkl in his ies now, and a haf-anggry, haf-injerd expreshon replaest th former indiferens.

"I supoezd U'd taek it so. U men tel us we ar aenjels, and sae we can maek U whut we wil; but th instant we onestly tri to do U guud, U laf at us, and wun't lisen, which proovs how much yuur flatery is wurth." Amy spoek biterly, and turnd her bak on th exasperaeting marter at her feet.

In a mienuet a hand caem doun oever th paej, so that she cuud not draw, and Laurie's vois sed, with a droel imitaeshon of a penitent chield,—

"I wil be guud, o, I wil be guud!"

But Amy did not laf, for she wuz in urnest; and, taping on th outspred hand with her pensil, sed soeberly,—

"Aren't U ashamed of a hand liek that? It's as soft and whiet as a wuuman's, and luuks as if it never did anything but waer Jouvin's best gluvs, and pik flowers for laedys. U ar not a dandy, thank Heven! so I'm glad to see thaer ar no diemonds or big seel-rings on it, oenly th litl oeld wun Jo gaev U so long ago. Deer soel, I wish she wuz heer to help me!"

490 "So do I!"

Th hand vanisht as sudenly as it caem, and thaer wuz enerjy enough in th eco of her wish to suit eeven Amy. She glanst doun at him with a nue thaut in her miend; but he wuz lieing with his hat haf oever his faess, as if for shaed, and his mustash hid his mouth. She oenly saw his chest riez and faul, with a long breth that miet hav been a sie, and th hand that wor th ring nesld doun into th gras, as if to hied sumthing too precious or too tender to be spoeken of. All in a mienuet vaerius hints and trifles asuemd shaep and significanss in Amy's miend, and toeld her whut her sister never had confieded to her. She rememberd that Laurie never spoek voluntaerily of Jo; she recauld th shado on his faess just now, th chaenj in his carrakter, and th waering of th litl oeld ring, which wuz no ornament to a handsum hand. Gurls ar qik to red such siens and feel thaer eloquence. Amy had fansyd that perhaps a luv trubl wuz at th bottom of th aulteraeshon, and now she wuz shuur of it. Her keen ies fild, and, when she spoek again, it wuz in a vois that cuud be beautifully soft and kiend when she choez to maek it so.

"I noe I hav no riet to tauk so to U, Laurie; and if U weren't th sweetest-temperd felo in th wurld, U'd be verry anggry with me. But we ar all so fond and proud of U, I couldn't baer to think thae should be disapointed in U at hoem as I hav been, tho, perhaps, thae wuud understand th chaenj beter than I do."

"I think thae wuud," caem from under th hat, in a grim toen, qiet as tuching as a broeken wun.

"Thae aut to hav toeld me, and not let me go blundering and scoelding, when I should hav been mor kiend and paeshent than ever. I never did liek that Mis Randal, and now I haet her!" sed artful Amy, wishing to be shuur of her fakts this tiem.

"Hang Mis Randal!" and Laurie nokt th hat off his faess with a luuk that left no dout of his sentiments tord that yung laedy.

"I beg pardon; I thaut—" and thaer she paused diplomatikaly.

"No, U didn't; U knew perfectly wel I never caerd for any wun but Jo." Laurie sed that in his oeld, impechu’us toen, and turnd his faess away as he spoek.

491 "I did think so; but as thae never sed anything about it, and U caem away, I supoezd I wuz mistaeken. And Jo wouldn't be kiend to U? Whi, I wuz shuur she luvd U deerly."

"She wuz kiend, but not in th riet wae; and it's luky for her she didn't luv me, if I'm th guud-for-nuthing felo U think me. It's her fault, tho, and U mae tel her so."

Th hard, biter luuk caem bak again as he sed that, and it trubld Amy, for she did not noe whut balm to aplie.

"I wuz rong, I didn't noe. I'm verry sorry I wuz so cros, but I can't help wishing U'd baer it beter, Teddy, deer."

"Don't, that's her naem for me!" and Laurie put up his hand with a qik jescher to stop th wurds spoeken in Jo's haf-kiend, haf-reproechful toen. "Waet till U've tried it yuurself," he aded, in a loe vois, as he puuld up th gras by th handfuul.

"I'd taek it manfuly, and be respekted if I couldn't be luvd," sed Amy, with th desizhon of wun hoo knew nuthing about it.

Now, Laurie flaterd himself that he had borne it remarkably wel, maeking no moen, asking no simpathy, and taeking his trubl away to liv it doun aloen. Amy's lecture put th mater in a nue liet, and for th furst tiem it did luuk week and selfish to looz hart at th furst faeluer, and shut himself up in moody indiferens. He felt as if sudenly shaeken out of a pensiv dreem, and found it imposibl to go to sleep again. Prezently he sat up, and askt sloely,—

"Do U think Jo wuud despiez me as U do?"

"Yes, if she saw U now. She haets laezy peepl. Whi don't U do sumthing splendid, and maek her luv U?"

"I did mi best, but it wuz no uez."

"Grajuaeting wel, U meen? That wuz no mor than U aut to hav dun, for yuur grandfaather's saek. It wuud hav been shaemful to fael after spending so much tiem and muny, when every wun knew U cuud do wel."

"I did fael, sae whut U wil, for Jo wouldn't luv me," began Laurie, leening his hed on his hand in a despondent atitued.

"No, U didn't, and U'll sae so in th end, for it did U guud, and proovd that U cuud do sumthing if U tried. If U'd oenly set about anuther task of sum sort, U'd soon be yuur harty, hapy self again, and forget yuur trubl."

492 "That's imposibl."

"Tri it and see. U needn't shrug yuur shoulders, and think, 'Much she noes about such things.' I don't pretend to be wiez, but I am obzurving, and I see a graet deel mor than U'd imajin. I'm interested in uther peepl's expeeri’enses and inconsistensys; and, tho I can't explaen, I remember and uez them for mi oen benefit. Luv Jo all yuur daes, if U chooz, but don't let it spoil U, for it's wiked to thro away so meny guud gifts because U can't hav th wun U wont. Thaer, I wun't lecture any mor, for I noe U'll waek up and be a man in spiet of that hardharted gurl."

Neether spoek for several minits. Laurie sat turning th litl ring on his fingger, and Amy put th last tuches to th hasty skech she had been wurking at whiel she taukt. Prezently she put it on his nee, meerly saeing,—

"How do U liek that?"

He luukt and then he smield, as he cuud not wel help dooing, for it wuz capitally dun,—th long, laezy figuer on th gras, with listles faess, haf-shut ies, and wun hand hoelding a sigar, from which caem th litl reeth of smoek that encircled th dreemer's hed.

"How wel U draw!" he sed, with jenuein serpriez and plezher at her skil, ading, with a haf-laf,—

"Yes, that's me."

"As U ar: this is as U wer;" and Amy laed anuther skech besied th wun he held.

It wuz not neerly so wel dun, but thaer wuz a lief and spirit in it which atoned for meny faults, and it recauld th past so vividly that a suden chaenj swept oever th yung man's faess as he luukt. Oenly a ruf skech of Laurie taeming a horss; hat and coet wer off, and every lien of th aktiv figuer, rezoloot faess, and comanding atitued, wuz fuul of enerjy and meening. Th handsum broot, just subdued, stuud arching his nek under th tightly drawn raen, with wun fuut impaeshently pawing th ground, and eers prikt up as if lisening for th vois that had masterd him. In th rufld maen, th rieder's breezy haer and erekt atitued, thaer wuz a sugjeschon of sudenly arest moeshon, of strength, curej, and yoothful buoyancy, that contrasted sharply with th supine graess of th "Dolce far niente" skech. 493 Laurie sed nuthing; but, as his ie went from wun to th uther, Amy saw him flush up and foeld his lips together as if he red and accepted th litl leson she had given him. That satisfied her; and, without waeting for him to speek, she sed, in her sprietly wae,—

A rough sketch of Laurie taming a horse

"Don't U remember th dae U plaed Rarey with Puk, and we all luukt on? Meg and Beth wer frietend, but Jo clapt and pranst, and I sat on th fenss and droo U. I found that skech in mi portfolio th uther dae, tucht it up, and kept it to sho U."

"Much obliejd. U've improovd imensly sinss then, and I congrachulaet U. Mae I venture to sugjest in 'a hunymoon Paradise' that fiev o'clok is th diner-our at yuur hoetel?"

Laurie roez as he spoek, returnd th pikchers with a smiel and a boe, and luukt at his woch, as if to remiend her that eeven moral lectures should hav an end. He tried to rezoom his former eezy, indiferent aer, but it wuz an affectation now, for th rouzing had been mor efficacious than he wuud confes. Amy felt th shaed of coldness in his maner, and sed to herself,—

494 "Now I've ofended him. Wel, if it duz him guud, I'm glad; if it maeks him haet me, I'm sorry; but it's troo, and I can't taek bak a wurd of it."

Thae laft and chated all th wae hoem; and litl Baptiste, up behind, thaut that monsieur and mademezel wer in charming spirits. But boeth felt il at eez; th frendly franknes wuz disturbs, th sunshine had a shado oever it, and despiet thaer apparent gaeety, thaer wuz a seecret discontent in th hart of eech.

"Shal we see U this evening, mon frère?" askt Amy as thae parted at her ant's dor.

"Unforchunatly I hav an engaejment. Au revoir, mademezel," and Laurie bent as if to kis her hand, in th forin fashon, which becaem him beter than meny men. Sumthing in his faess maed Amy sae qikly and wormly,—

"No; be yuurself with me, Laurie, and part in th guud oeld wae. I'd rather hav a harty English hand-shaek than all th sentimental saluetaeshons in France."

"Guud-by, deer," and with thees wurds, uterd in th toen she liked, Laurie left her, after a hand-shaek aulmoest paenful in its hartynes.

Next morning, insted of th uezhual call, Amy reseevd a noet which maed her smiel at th begining and sie at th end:—

"Mi deer Mentor,—

"Pleez maek mi adieux to yuur ant, and exult within yuurself, for 'Laezy Laurence' has gon to his grandpa, liek th best of boys. A plezant winter to U, and mae th gods grant U a blissful hunymoon at Valrosa! I think Fred wuud be benefited by a rouser. Tel him so, with mi congrachulaeshons.

"Yuurs graetfuly,

Telemachus."

"Guud boy! I'm glad he's gon," sed Amy, with an aprooving smiel; th next mienuet her faess fel as she glanst about th empty room, ading, with an involuntaery sie,—

"Yes, I am glad, but how I shal mis him!"


XL. Th Valy of th Shado.

495

The Valley of the Shadow

XL.

Th Valy OF Th Shado.

When th furst bitterness wuz oever, th family accepted th inevitabl, and tried to baer it cheerfuly, helping wun anuther by th increest affection which cums to biend hous-hoelds tenderly together in times of trubl. Thae put away thaer greef, and eech did his or her part tord maeking that last yeer a hapy wun.

Th plezantest room in th hous wuz set apart for Beth, and in it wuz gatherd everything that she moest luvd,—flowers, pikchers, her piano, th litl wurk-taebl, and th beluved puusys. Faather's best books found thaer wae thaer, muther's eezy-chaer, Jo's desk, Amy's fienest skeches; and every dae Meg brought her baebys on a luving pilgrimage, to maek sunshine for Aunty Beth. John qieetly set apart a litl 496 sum, that he miet enjoy th plezher of keeping th invalid suplied with th froot she luvd and longed for; oeld Hannah never wearied of concocting dainty dishes to tempt a capricious apetiet, droping teers as she wurkt; and from acros th see caem litl gifts and cheerful leters, seeming to bring breaths of warmth and fraegranss from lands that noe no winter.

Heer, cherrisht liek a hous-hoeld saent in its shrien, sat Beth, tranquil and busy as ever; for nuthing cuud chaenj th sweet, unselfish naechuur, and eeven whiel prepaering to leev lief, she tried to maek it hapyer for thoes hoo should remaen behind. Th feebl finggers wer never iedl, and wun of her plezhers wuz to maek litl things for th scool-children daily pasing to and fro,—to drop a paer of mitens from her windo for a paer of purpl hands, a needl-book for sum small muther of meny dols, pen-wipers for yung penmen toiling thru forests of pot-huuks, scrap-books for pikcher-luving ies, and all maner of plezant devieses, till th reluktant cliemers up th lader of lurning found thaer wae stroon with flowers, as it wer, and caem to regard th jentl giver as a sort of faery godmuther, hoo sat abuv thaer, and showered doun gifts miracuelusly suited to thaer taests and needs. If Beth had wontedw any reword, she found it in th briet litl faeses aulwaes turnd up to her windo, with nods and smiels, and th droel litl leters which caem to her, fuul of blots and gratitood.

Th furst fue munths wer verry hapy wuns, and Beth ofen uezd to luuk round, and sae "How buetiful this is!" as thae all sat together in her suny room, th baebys kiking and croeing on th flor, muther and sisters wurking neer, and faather reeding, in his plezant vois, from th wiez oeld books which seemd rich in guud and comfortable wurds, as aplicabl now as when riten sencherys ago; a litl chapel, whaer a paturnal preest taut his flok th hard lesons all must lurn, trieing to sho them that hoep can cumfort luv, and faeth maek rezignaeshon posibl. Simpl surmons, that went straet to th soels of thoes hoo lisend; for th faather's hart wuz in th minister's relijon, and th freeqent faulter in th vois gaev a dubl eloquence to th wurds he spoek or red.

It wuz wel for all that this peaceful tiem wuz given them as preparaeshon 497 for th sad ours to cum; for, by and by, Beth sed th needl wuz "so hevy," and put it doun forever; tauking wearied her, faeses trubld her, paen claemd her for its oen, and her tranquil spirit wuz sorroefuly perturbed by th ils that vext her feebl flesh. Ah me! such hevy daes, such long, long niets, such aeking harts and imploring praers, when thoes hoo luvd her best wer forst to see th thin hands strecht out to them beseechingly, to heer th biter cri, "Help me, help me!" and to feel that thaer wuz no help. A sad eclips of th sereen soel, a sharp strugl of th yung lief with deth; but boeth wer mursyfuly brief, and then, th nacheral rebelyon oever, th oeld peess returnd mor buetiful than ever. With th rek of her frael body, Beth's soel groo strong; and, tho she sed litl, thoes about her felt that she wuz redy, saw that th furst pilgrim called wuz liekwiez th fittest, and waeted with her on th shor, trieing to see th Shiening Wuns cuming to reseev her when she crost th river.

Jo never left her for an our sinss Beth had sed, "I feel strongger when U ar heer." She slept on a couch in th room, waeking ofen to renue th fier, to feed, lift, or waet upon th paeshent creecher hoo seldom askt for anything, and "tried not to be a trubl." All dae she haunted th room, jelus of any uther nurss, and prouder of being choezen then than of any onor her lief ever brought her. Precious and helpful ours to Jo, for now her hart reseevd th teeching that it needed; lesons in paeshenss wer so sweetly taut her that she cuud not fael to lurn them; charrity for all, th luvly spirit that can forgiv and truly forget unkiendnes, th loyalty to duty that maeks th hardest eezy, and th sincere faeth that feers nuthing, but trusts undoubtingly.

Ofen, when she woek, Jo found Beth reeding in her wel-worn litl book, hurd her singing softly, to begiel th sleepless niet, or saw her leen her faess upon her hands, whiel slo teers dropt thru th transpaerent finggers; and Jo wuud lie woching her, with thoughts too deep for teers, feeling that Beth, in her simpl, unselfish wae, wuz trieing to ween herself from th deer oeld lief, and fit herself for th lief to cum, by saecred wurds of cumfort, qieet praers, and th muezik she luvd so wel.

498 Seeing this did mor for Jo than th wiezest surmons, th saintliest hims, th moest furvent praers that any vois cuud uter; for, with ies maed cleer by meny teers, and a hart sofend by th tenderest sorro, she recogniezd th buety of her sister's lief,—uneventful, unambitious, yet fuul of th jenuein vurchoos which "smel sweet, and blossom in th dust," th self-forgetfulnes that maeks th humblest on urth rememberd soonest in heven, th troo success which is posibl to all.

Wun niet, when Beth luukt amung th books upon her taebl, to fiend sumthing to maek her forget th mortal weerynes that wuz aulmoest as hard to baer as paen, as she turnd th leevs of her oeld faevorit Pilgrim's Progres, she found a litl paeper, scribld oever in Jo's hand. Th naem caut her ie, and th blurred luuk of th liens maed her shuur that teers had faulen on it.

"Puur Jo! she's fast asleep, so I wun't waek her to ask leev; she shoes me all her things, and I don't think she'll miend if I luuk at this," thaut Beth, with a glanss at her sister, hoo lae on th rug, with th tongs besied her, redy to waek up th mienuet th log fel apart.


"Mi BETH.

"Sitting paeshent in th shado

Till th blest liet shal cum,

A sereen and saently presence

Sanktifies our trubld hoem.

Urthly joys and hoeps and sorroes

Braek liek ripls on th strand

Of th deep and solem river

Whaer her wiling feet now stand.


"O mi sister, pasing from me,

Out of hueman caer and strief,

Leev me, as a gift, thoes vurchoos

Which hav beautified yuur lief.

Deer, beqeeth me that graet paeshenss

Which has power to sustaen

A cheerful, uncomplaening spirit

In its prizon-hous of paen.

499

"Giv me, for I need it sorly,

Of that curej, wiez and sweet,

Which has maed th path of duty

Green beneath yuur wiling feet.

Giv me that unselfish naechuur,

That with charrity divine

Can pardon rong for luv's deer saek—

Meek hart, forgiv me mien!


"Thus our parting daily loseth

Sumthing of its biter paen,

And whiel lurning this hard leson,

Mi graet lost becums mi gaen.

For th tuch of greef wil render

Mi wield naechuur mor sereen,

Giv to lief nue aspirations,

A nue trust in th unseen.


"Hensforth, saef acros th river,

I shal see forevermor

A beluved, hous-hoeld spirit

Waeting for me on th shor.

Hoep and faeth, born of mi sorro,

Guardian aenjels shal becum,

And th sister gon befor me

By thaer hands shal leed me hoem."

Blurred and bloted, faulty and feebl, as th liens wer, thae brought a luuk of inexpresibl cumfort to Beth's faess, for her wun regret had been that she had dun so litl; and this seemd to ashuur her that her lief had not been uesles, that her deth wuud not bring th despaer she feerd. As she sat with th paeper foelded between her hands, th chard log fel asunder. Jo started up, revievd th blaez, and crept to th bedside, hoeping Beth slept.

"Not asleep, but so hapy, deer. See, I found this and red it; I knew U wouldn't caer. Hav I been all that to U, Jo?" she askt, with wistful, humbl urnestly.

"O Beth, so much, so much!" and Jo's hed went doun upon th pilo, besied her sister's.

"Then I don't feel as if I'd waested mi lief. I'm not so guud as U maek me, but I hav tried to do riet; and now, when it's too 500 laet to begin eeven to do beter, it's such a cumfort to noe that sum wun luvs me so much, and feels as if I'd helpt them."

"Mor than any wun in th wurld, Beth. I uezd to think I couldn't let U go; but I'm lurning to feel that I don't looz U; that U'll be mor to me than ever, and deth can't part us, tho it seems to."

"I noe it cannot, and I don't feer it any longer, for I'm shuur I shal be yuur Beth still, to luv and help U mor than ever. U must taek mi plaess, Jo, and be everything to faather and muther when I'm gon. Thae wil turn to U, don't fael them; and if it's hard to wurk aloen, remember that I don't forget U, and that U'll be hapyer in dooing that than rieting splendid books or seeing all th wurld; for luv is th oenly thing that we can carry with us when we go, and it maeks th end so eezy."

"I'll tri, Beth;" and then and thaer Jo renounst her oeld ambishon, plejd herself to a nue and beter wun, aknolejing th poverty of uther deziers, and feeling th blest solis of a beleef in th imortality of luv.

So th spring daes caem and went, th ski groo cleerer, th urth greener, th flowers wer up faer and eerly, and th burds caem bak in tiem to sae guud-by to Beth, hoo, liek a tierd but trustful chield, clung to th hands that had led her all her lief, as faather and muther gieded her tenderly thru th Valy of th Shado, and gaev her up to God.

Seldom, exsept in books, do th dieing uter memorabl wurds, see vizhons, or depart with beatified countenances; and thoes hoo hav sped meny parting soels noe that to moest th end cums as nacheraly and simply as sleep. As Beth had hoept, th "tied went out eezily;" and in th dark our befor th daun, on th bosom whaer she had drawn her furst breth, she qieetly droo her last, with no faerwel but wun luving luuk, wun litl sie.

With teers and praers and tender hands, muther and sisters maed her redy for th long sleep that paen wuud never mar again, seeing with graetful ies th buetiful serenity that soon replaest th pathetik paeshenss that had wrung thaer harts so long, and feeling, with reverent joy, that to thaer darling deth wuz a benignant aenjel, not a fantom fuul of dred.

501 When morning caem, for th furst tiem in meny munths th fier wuz out, Jo's plaess wuz empty, and th room wuz verry still. But a burd sang blithely on a buding bow, cloez by, th sno-drops blossomed freshly at th windo, and th spring sunshine streemd in liek a benedikshon oever th plasid faess upon th pilo,—a faess so fuul of paenles peess that thoes hoo luvd it best smield thru thaer teers, and thankt God that Beth wuz wel at last.

Tail-piece

XLI. Lurning to Forget.

502

Sat staring up at the busts

XLI.

Lurning TO FORGET.

Amy's lecture did Laurie guud, tho, of corss, he did not oen it till long afterward; men seldom do, for when wimen ar th advisers, th lords of creaeshon don't taek th advice till thae hav persuaded themselvs that it is just whut thae intended to do; then thae akt upon it, and, if it succeeds, thae giv th weeker vesel haf th credit of it; if it faels, thae jenerusly giv her th hoel. Laurie went bak to his grandfaather, and wuz so dutifully devoeted for several weeks that th oeld jentlman declaerd th cliemat of Niess had improovd him wunderfuly, and he had beter tri it again. Thaer wuz nuthing th yung jentlman wuud hav liked beter, but elefants cuud not hav dragd him bak after th scoelding he had reseevd; pride forbid, and whenever th longing groo verry strong, he fortified 503 his rezolooshon by repeeting th wurds that had maed th deepest impreshon, "I despiez U;" "Go and do sumthing splendid that wil maek her luv U."

Laurie turnd th mater oever in his miend so ofen that he soon brought himself to confes that he had been selfish and laezy; but then when a man has a graet sorro, he should be induljd in all sorts of vaegarys till he has livd it doun. He felt that his blieted affections wer qiet ded now; and, tho he should never seess to be a faethful morner, thaer wuz no ocaezhon to waer his weeds ostentatiously. Jo wouldn't luv him, but he miet maek her respekt and admier him by dooing sumthing which should proov that a gurl's "No" had not spoilt his lief. He had aulwaes ment to do sumthing, and Amy's advice wuz qiet unnesesaery. He had oenly been waeting till th aforesaid blieted affections wer deesently inturd; that being dun, he felt that he wuz redy to "hied his striken hart, and still toil on."

As Goethe, when he had a joy or a greef, put it into a song, so Laurie rezolvd to embalm his luv-sorro in muezik, and compoez a Reqi’em which should harro up Jo's soel and melt th hart of every heerer. Thaerfor th next tiem th oeld jentlman found him geting restles and moody, and orderd him off, he went to Vienna, whaer he had muezikal frends, and fel to wurk with th furm deturminaeshon to distingwish himself. But, whether th sorro wuz too vast to be embodied in muezik, or muezik too etheerial to uplift a mortal wo, he soon discuverd that th Reqi’em wuz beyond him, just at prezent. It wuz evident that his miend wuz not in wurking order yet, and his iedeeas needed claerifieing; for ofen in th midl of a plaentiv straen, he wuud fiend himself huming a dansing tuen that vividly recauld th Christmas baul at Niess, especially th stout Frenchman, and put an effectual stop to trajik compozishon for th tiem being.

Then he tried an Opera, for nuthing seemd imposibl in th begining; but heer, again, unforeseen dificultys beset him. He wontedw Jo for his herroein, and called upon his memory to suplie him with tender recolekshons and roemantik vizhons of his luv. But memory turnd traitor; and, as if possessed by th pervurss spirit of th gurl, wuud oenly recaul Jo's oditys, faults, and freeks, wuud oenly sho her in th moest unsentimental aspekts,—beeting mats with her hed tied 504 up in a bandanna, barricading herself with th soefa-pilo, or throeing coeld wauter oever his pashon à laa Gummidge,—and an irezistibl laf spoilt th pensiv pikcher he wuz endevoring to paent. Jo wouldn't be put into th Opera at any priess, and he had to giv her up with a "Bles that gurl, whut a torment she is!" and a clutch at his haer, as becaem a distracted compoezer.

When he luukt about him for anuther and a les intraktabl damsel to imortaliez in melody, memory produced wun with th moest obliejing redynes. This fantom wor meny faeses, but it aulwaes had goelden haer, wuz enveloped in a diaphanous cloud, and floeted airily befor his miend's ie in a pleezing caeos of roezes, peacocks, whiet ponies, and bloo ribons. He did not giv th complacent raeth any naem, but he tuuk her for his herroein, and groo qiet fond of her, as wel he miet; for he gifted her with every gift and graess under th sun, and escorted her, unscaethd, thru trieals which wuud hav anieilaeted any mortal wuuman.

Thanks to this inspiraeshon, he got on swimmingly for a tiem, but grajualy th wurk lost its charm, and he forgot to compoez, whiel he sat muezing, pen in hand, or roemd about th gae sity to get nue iedeeas and refreshes his miend, which seemd to be in a sumwhot unsetld staet that winter. He did not do much, but he thaut a graet deel and wuz conshus of a chaenj of sum sort going on in spiet of himself. "It's jeenyus simering, perhaps. I'll let it simer, and see whut cums of it," he sed, with a seecret suspishon, all th whiel, that it wasn't jeenyus, but sumthing far mor common. Whotever it wuz, it simerd to sum purpos, for he groo mor and mor discontented with his desultory lief, began to long for sum reeal and urnest wurk to go at, soel and body, and fienaly caem to th wiez concloozhon that every wun hoo luvd muezik wuz not a compoezer. Returning from wun of Mozart's grand operas, splendidly performed at th Royal Theeater, he luukt oever his oen, plaed a fue of th best parts, sat staering up at th busts of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Bach, hoo staerd benignly bak again; then sudenly he tore up his muezik-sheets, wun by wun, and, as th last fluttered out of his hand, he sed soeberly to himself,—

"She is riet! Talent isn't jeenyus, and U can't maek it so. 505 That muezik has taeken th vanity out of me as Rome tuuk it out of her, and I wun't be a humbug any longer. Now whut shal I do?"

That seemd a hard qeschon to anser, and Laurie began to wish he had to wurk for his daily bred. Now, if ever, ocurd an eligible oportuenity for "going to th devil," as he wunss forsibly exprest it, for he had plenty of muny and nuthing to do, and Saetan is provurbialy fond of providing employment for fuul and iedl hands. Th puur felo had temptaeshons enough from without and from within, but he withstuud them prity wel; for, much as he valued liberty, he valued guud faeth and confidenss mor, so his promis to his grandfaather, and his dezier to be aebl to luuk onestly into th ies of th wimen hoo luvd him, and sae "All's wel," kept him saef and steady.

Verry liekly sum Mrs. Grundy wil obzurv, "I don't beleev it; boys wil be boys, yung men must soe thaer wield oets, and wimen must not expect mirakls." I daer sae U don't, Mrs. Grundy, but it's troo nevertheles. Wimen wurk a guud meny mirakls, and I hav a persuasion that thae mae perform eeven that of raezing th standard of manhuud by refuezing to eco such saeings. Let th boys be boys, th longer th beter, and let th yung men soe thaer wield oets if thae must; but muthers, sisters, and frends mae help to maek th crop a small wun, and keep meny tares from spoiling th harvest, by beleeving, and shoeing that thae beleev, in th posibility of loyalty to th vurchoos which maek men manlyest in guud wimen's ies. If it is a feminine deloozhon, leev us to enjoy it whiel we mae, for without it haf th buety and th roemanss of lief is lost, and sorroeful forebodings wuud embitter all our hoeps of th braev, tender-hearted litl lads, hoo still luv thaer muthers beter than themselvs, and ar not ashamed to oen it.

Laurie thaut that th task of forgeting his luv for Jo wuud absorb all his powers for yeers; but, to his graet serpriez, he discuverd it groo eezyer every dae. He refuezd to beleev it at furst, got anggry with himself, and couldn't understand it; but thees harts of ours ar cuerius and contraery things, and tiem and naechuur wurk thaer wil in spiet of us. Laurie's hart wouldn't aek; th woond persisted in heeling with a rapidity that astonisht him, and, insted of trieing to forget, he found himself trieing to remember. He had not forseen 506 this turn of affairs, and wuz not prepaerd for it. He wuz disgusted with himself, serpriezd at his oen fiklnes, and fuul of a qeer mixcher of disapointment and releef that he cuud recuver from such a tremendous blo so soon. He carefully sturd up th embers of his lost luv, but thae refuezd to burst into a blaez: thaer wuz oenly a comfortable glo that wormd and did him guud without putting him into a feever, and he wuz reluktantly obliejd to confes that th boyish pashon wuz sloely subsiding into a mor tranquil sentiment, verry tender, a litl sad and rezentful still, but that wuz shuur to pas away in tiem, leeving a brutherly affection which wuud last unbroeken to th end.

As th wurd "brutherly" past thru his miend in wun of thees reverys, he smield, and glanst up at th pikcher of Mozart that wuz befor him:—

"Wel, he wuz a graet man; and when he couldn't hav wun sister he tuuk th uther, and wuz hapy."

Laurie did not uter th wurds, but he thaut them; and th next instant kist th litl oeld ring, saeing to himself,—

"No, I wun't! I haeven't forgoten, I never can. I'll tri again, and if that faels, whi, then—"

Leeving his sentenss unfinisht, he seezd pen and paeper and roet to Jo, teling her that he cuud not setl to anything whiel thaer wuz th leest hoep of her chaenjing her miend. Couldn't she, wouldn't she, and let him cum hoem and be hapy? Whiel waeting for an anser he did nuthing, but he did it enerjetikaly, for he wuz in a feever of impaeshenss. It caem at last, and setld his miend effectually on wun pointer, for Jo decidedly couldn't and wouldn't. She wuz rapt up in Beth, and never wisht to heer th wurd "luv" again. Then she begd him to be hapy with sumbody else, but aulwaes to keep a litl corner of his hart for his luving sister Jo. In a postscript she dezierd him not to tel Amy that Beth wuz wurss; she wuz cuming hoem in th spring, and thaer wuz no need of saddening th remaender of her stae. That wuud be tiem enough, pleez God, but Laurie must riet to her ofen, and not let her feel loenly, hoemsik, or anxious.

"So I wil, at wunss. Puur litl gurl; it wil be a sad going hoem for her, I'm afraed;" and Laurie oepend his desk, as if rieting to 507 Amy had been th proper concloozhon of th sentenss left unfinisht sum weeks befor.

But he did not riet th leter that dae; for, as he rumejd out his best paeper, he caem acros sumthing which chaenjd his purpos. Tumbling about in wun part of th desk, amung bils, passports, and business docuements of vaerius kiends, wer several of Jo's leters, and in anuther compartment wer three noets from Amy, carefully tied up with wun of her bloo ribons, and sweetly suggestive of th litl ded roezes put away insied. With a haf-repentant, haf-amuezd expreshon, Laurie gatherd up all Jo's leters, smoothd, foelded, and put them neetly into a small drawer of th desk, stuud a mienuet turning th ring thautfuly on his fingger, then sloely droo it off, laed it with th 508 leters, locked th drawer, and went out to heer Hie Mas at Saent Stefan's, feeling as if thaer had been a fueneral; and, tho not oeverwhelmd with aflikshon, this seemd a mor proper wae to spend th rest of th dae than in rieting leters to charming yung laedys.

Turning the ring thoughtfully upon his finger

Th leter went verry soon, however, and wuz promptly anserd, for Amy wuz hoemsik, and confest it in th moest delietfuly confieding maner. Th corespondenss flurisht faemusly, and leters floo to and fro, with unfaeling reguelarrity, all thru th eerly spring. Laurie soeld his busts, maed allumettes of his opera, and went bak to Paris, hoeping sumbody wuud arrive befor long. He wontedw desperatly to go to Niess, but wuud not till he wuz askt; and Amy wuud not ask him, for just then she wuz having litl expeeri’enses of her oen, which maed her rather wish to avoid th qizikal ies of "our boy."

Fred Vaughn had returnd, and put th qeschon to which she had wunss desieded to anser "Yes, thank U;" but now she sed, "No, thank U," kiendly but steadily; for, when th tiem caem, her curej faeld her, and she found that sumthing mor than muny and pozishon wuz needed to satisfi th nue longing that fild her hart so fuul of tender hoeps and feers. Th wurds, "Fred is a guud felo, but not at all th man I fansyd U wuud ever liek," and Laurie's faess when he uterd them, kept returning to her as pertinaciously as her oen did when she sed in luuk, if not in wurds, "I shal marry for muny." It trubld her to remember that now, she wisht she cuud taek it bak, it sounded so unwuumanly. She didn't wont Laurie to think her a hartles, wurldly creecher; she didn't caer to be a qeen of soesieety now haf so much as she did to be a luvabl wuuman; she wuz so glad he didn't haet her for th dredful things she sed, but tuuk them so beautifully, and wuz kiender than ever. His leters wer such a cumfort, for th hoem leters wer verry ireguelar, and wer not haf so satisfaktory as his when thae did cum. It wuz not oenly a plezher, but a duty to anser them, for th puur felo wuz forlorn, and needed peting, sinss Jo persisted in being stoeny-hearted. She aut to hav maed an efort, and tried to luv him; it couldn't be verry hard, meny peepl wuud be proud and glad to hav such a deer boy caer for them; but Jo never wuud akt liek 509 uther gurls, so thaer wuz nuthing to do but be verry kiend, and treat him liek a bruther.

If all bruthers wer treated as wel as Laurie wuz at this period, thae wuud be a much hapyer raess of beings than thae ar. Amy never lectured now; she askt his opinyon on all subjekts; she wuz interested in everything he did, maed charming litl prezents for him, and sent him too leters a week, fuul of lievly gosip, sisterly confidenses, and captivaeting skeches of th luvly seens about her. As fue bruthers ar complimented by having thaer leters carried about in thaer sisters' pokets, red and re-red dilijently, cried oever when short, kist when long, and treasured carefully, we wil not hint that Amy did any of thees fond and foolish things. But she surtenly did gro a litl pale and pensiv that spring, lost much of her relish for soesieety, and went out skeching aloen a guud deel. She never had much to sho when she caem hoem, but wuz studying naechuur, I daer sae, whiel she sat for ours, with her hands foelded, on th terris at Valrosa, or absently skecht any fansy that ocurd to her,—a staulwart niet carvd on a toom, a yung man asleep in th gras, with his hat oever his ies, or a curly-haired gurl in gorjus arae, promenading doun a baul-room on th arm of a taul jentlman, boeth faeses being left a blur acording to th last fashon in art, which wuz saef, but not aultogether satisfaktory.

Her ant thaut that she regreted her anser to Fred; and, fiending denieals uesles and explanaeshons imposibl, Amy left her to think whut she liked, taeking caer that Laurie should noe that Fred had gon to Egypt. That wuz all, but he understuud it, and luukt releevd, as he sed to himself, with a venerable aer,—

"I wuz shuur she wuud think beter of it. Puur oeld felo! I've been thru it all, and I can sympathize."

With that he heevd a graet sie, and then, as if he had discharjd his duty to th past, put his feet up on th soefa, and enjoyd Amy's leter lugzhuriusly.

Whiel thees chaenjes wer going on abraud, trubl had cum at hoem; but th leter teling that Beth wuz faeling never reached Amy, and when th next found her, th gras wuz green abuv her sister. Th sad nues met her at Vevay, for th heet had driven them from 510 Niess in Mae, and thae had travelled sloely to Switzerland, by wae of Genoa and th Italian laeks. She bor it verry wel, and qieetly submitted to th family decree that she should not shorten her vizit, for, sinss it wuz too laet to sae guud-by to Beth, she had beter stae, and let absence sofen her sorro. But her hart wuz verry hevy; she longed to be at hoem, and every dae luukt wistfuly acros th laek, waeting for Laurie to cum and cumfort her.

He did cum verry soon; for th saem mael brought leters to them boeth, but he wuz in Germany, and it tuuk sum daes to reech him. Th moement he red it, he pakt his napsak, bade adieu to his felo-pedestrians, and wuz off to keep his promis, with a hart fuul of joy and sorro, hoep and suspenss.

He knew Vevay wel; and as soon as th boet tucht th litl kee, he huryd along th shor to Laa Tour, whaer th Carrols wer living en penshon. Th garçon wuz in despaer that th hoel family had gon to taek a promenade on th laek; but no, th blond mademezel miet be in th chateau garden. If monsieur wuud giv himself th paen of sitting doun, a flash of tiem should prezent her. But monsieur cuud not waet eeven "a flash of tiem," and, in th midl of th speech, departed to fiend mademezel himself.

A plezant oeld garden on th borders of th luvly laek, with chestnuts rusling oeverhed, ievy clieming everywhaer, and th blak shado of th tower fauling far acros th suny wauter. At wun corner of th wied, loe waul wuz a seet, and heer Amy ofen caem to red or wurk, or consoel herself with th buety all about her. She wuz sitting heer that dae, leening her hed on her hand, with a hoemsik hart and hevy ies, thinking of Beth, and wundering whi Laurie did not cum. She did not heer him cros th cort-yard beyond, nor see him pause in th archway that led from th subterranean path into th garden. He stuud a mienuet, luuking at her with nue ies, seeing whut no wun had ever seen befor,—th tender sied of Amy's carrakter. Everything about her mutely sugjested luv and sorro,—th bloted leters in her lap, th blak ribon that tied up her haer, th wuumanly paen and paeshenss in her faess; eeven th litl ebony cros at her throet seemd pathetik to Laurie, for he had given it to her, and she wor it as her oenly ornament. If he had any doubts about th resepshon she 511 wuud giv him, thae wer set at rest th mienuet she luukt up and saw him; for, droping everything, she ran to him, exclaeming, in a toen of unmistaekably luv and longing,—

"O Laurie, Laurie, I knew U'd cum to me!"

O Laurie, Laurie, I knew you'd come

I think everything wuz sed and setld then; for, as thae stuud together qiet silent for a moement, with th dark hed bent doun protectingly oever th liet wun, Amy felt that no wun cuud cumfort and sustaen her so wel as Laurie, and Laurie desieded that Amy wuz th oenly wuuman in th wurld hoo cuud fil Jo's plaess, and maek him hapy. He did not tel her so; but she wuz not disapointed, for boeth felt th trooth, wer satisfied, and gladly left th rest to silence.

In a mienuet Amy went bak to her plaess; and, whiel she dried her teers, Laurie gatherd up th scaterd paepers, fiending in th siet of sundry wel-worn leters and suggestive skeches guud oemens for th fuecher. As he sat doun besied her, Amy felt shi again, and turnd roezy red at th recolekshon of her impulsiv greeting.

"I couldn't help it; I felt so loenly and sad, and wuz so verry glad 512 to see U. It wuz such a serpriez to luuk up and fiend U, just as I wuz begining to feer U wouldn't cum," she sed, trieing in vaen to speek qiet nacheraly.

"I caem th mienuet I hurd. I wish I cuud sae sumthing to cumfort U for th lost of deer litl Beth; but I can oenly feel, and—" He cuud not get any further, for he, too, turnd bashful all of a suden, and did not qiet noe whut to sae. He longed to lae Amy's hed doun on his shoulder, and tel her to hav a guud cri, but he did not daer; so tuuk her hand insted, and gaev it a simpathetik sqeez that wuz beter than wurds.

"U needn't sae anything; this cumforts me," she sed softly. "Beth is wel and hapy, and I mustn't wish her bak; but I dred th going hoem, much as I long to see them all. We wun't tauk about it now, for it maeks me cri, and I wont to enjoy U whiel U stae. U needn't go riet bak, need U?"

"Not if U wont me, deer."

"I do, so much. Ant and Flo ar verry kiend; but U seem liek wun of th family, and it wuud be so comfortable to hav U for a litl whiel."

Amy spoek and luukt so liek a hoemsik chield, hoos hart wuz fuul, that Laurie forgot his bashfulness all at wunss, and gaev her just whut she wontedw,—th peting she wuz uezd to and th cheerful conversation she needed.

"Puur litl soel, U luuk as if U'd greevd yuurself haf-sik! I'm going to taek caer of U, so don't cri any mor, but cum and wauk about with me; th wiend is too chily for U to sit still," he sed, in th haf-caressing, haf-comanding wae that Amy liked, as he tied on her hat, droo her arm thru his, and began to paess up and doun th suny wauk, under th nue-leaved chestnuts. He felt mor at eez upon his legs; and Amy found it verry plezant to hav a strong arm to leen upon, a familyar faess to smiel at her, and a kiend vois to tauk delietfuly for her aloen.

Th qaent oeld garden had shelterd meny paers of luvers, and seemd expresly maed for them, so suny and seclooded wuz it, with nuthing but th tower to oeverluuk them, and th wied laek to carry away th eco of thaer wurds, as it ripld by beloe. For an our 513 this nue paer waukt and taukt, or rested on th waul, enjoying th sweet inflooenses which gaev such a charm to tiem and plaess; and when an unromantik diner-bel wornd them away, Amy felt as if she left her burden of loenlynes and sorro behind her in th chateau garden.

Th moement Mrs. Carrol saw th gurl's aulterd faess, she wuz iloominaeted with a nue iedeea, and exclaemd to herself, "Now I understand it all,—th chield has been piening for yung Laurence. Bles mi hart, I never thaut of such a thing!"

With praiseworthy discreshon, th guud laedy sed nuthing, and betraed no sien of enlightenment; but corjaly urjd Laurie to stae, and begd Amy to enjoy his soesieety, for it wuud do her mor guud than so much solitued. Amy wuz a model of docility; and, as her ant wuz a guud deel ocuepied with Flo, she wuz left to entertain her frend, and did it with mor than her uezhual success.

At Niess, Laurie had lounged and Amy had scoelded; at Vevay, Laurie wuz never iedl, but aulwaes wauking, rieding, boeting, or studying, in th moest enerjetik maner, whiel Amy admierd everything he did, and foloed his exampl as far and as fast as she cuud. He sed th chaenj wuz oeing to th cliemat, and she did not contradict him, being glad of a liek excuez for her oen recuverd helth and spirits.

Th invigoraeting aer did them boeth guud, and much exercise wurkt hoelsum chaenjes in miends as wel as bodys. Thae seemd to get cleerer vues of lief and duty up thaer amung th everlasting hils; th fresh wiends blew away desponding doubts, deloosiv fansys, and moody mists; th worm spring sunshine brought out all sorts of aspiring iedeeas, tender hoeps, and hapy thoughts; th laek seemd to wosh away th trubls of th past, and th grand oeld mountens to luuk benignly doun upon them, saeing, "Litl children, luv wun anuther."

In spiet of th nue sorro, it wuz a verry hapy tiem, so hapy that Laurie cuud not baer to disturb it by a wurd. It tuuk him a litl whiel to recuver from his serpriez at th rapid cuer of his furst, and, as he had furmly beleevd, his last and oenly luv. He consoeld himself for th seeming disloyalty by th thaut that Jo's sister wuz aulmoest th saem as Jo's self, and th convikshon that it wuud hav been 514 imposibl to luv any uther wuuman but Amy so soon and so wel. His furst wooing had been of th tempestuous order, and he luukt bak upon it as if thru a long vista of yeers, with a feeling of compassion blended with regret. He wuz not ashamed of it, but put it away as wun of th biter-sweet expeeri’enses of his lief, for which he cuud be graetful when th paen wuz oever. His second wooing he rezolvd should be as calm and simpl as posibl; thaer wuz no need of having a seen, hardly any need of teling Amy that he luvd her; she knew it without wurds, and had given him his anser long ago. It all caem about so nacheraly that no wun cuud complaen, and he knew that everybody wuud be pleezd, eeven Jo. But when our furst litl pashon has been crusht, we ar apt to be waery and slo in maeking a second trieal; so Laurie let th daes pas, enjoying every our, and leeving to chanss th uteranss of th wurd that wuud put an end to th furst and sweetest part of his nue roemanss.

He had rather imajind that th dénouement wuud taek plaess in th chateau garden by moonliet, and in th moest graesful and decorus maner; but it turnd out exaktly th revurss, for th mater wuz setld on th laek, at noondae, in a fue blunt wurds. Thae had been floeting about all th morning, from gloomy St. Gingolf to suny Montreux, with th Alps of Savoy on wun sied, Mont St. Bernard and th Dent du Midi on th uther, prity Vevay in th valy, and Lausanne upon th hil beyond, a cloudles bloo ski oeverhed, and th bluer laek beloe, dotted with th picturesque boets that luuk liek whiet-wingd guls.

Thae had been tauking of Bonnivard, as thae glieded past Chillon, and of Rousseau, as thae luukt up at Clarens, whaer he roet his "Héloise." Neether had red it, but thae knew it wuz a luv-story, and eech privately wunderd if it wuz haf as interesting as thaer oen. Amy had been dabling her hand in th wauter duuring th litl pause that fel between them, and, when she luukt up, Laurie wuz leening on his ors, with an expreshon in his ies that maed her sae haestily, meerly for th saek of saeing sumthing,—

"U must be tierd; rest a litl, and let me row (noun); it wil do me guud; for, sinss U caem, I hav been aultogether laezy and lugzhuurius."

"I'm not tierd; but U mae taek an or, if U liek. Thaer's 515 room enough, tho I hav to sit neerly in th midl, else th boet wun't trim," returnd Laurie, as if he rather liked th araenjment.

Feeling that she had not mended maters much, Amy tuuk th oferd thurd of a seet, shuuk her haer oever her faess, and accepted an or. She roed as wel as she did meny uther things; and, tho she uezd boeth hands, and Laurie but wun, th ors kept tiem, and th boet went smoothly thru th wauter.

How well we pull together

"How wel we puul together, don't we?" sed Amy, hoo objekted to silence just then.

"So wel that I wish we miet aulwaes puul in th saem boet. Wil U, Amy?" verry tenderly.

"Yes, Laurie," verry loe.

Then thae boeth stopt roeing, and unconshusly aded a prity litl tableau of hueman luv and hapynes to th dissolving vues reflekted in th laek.


XLII. All Aloen.

516

XLII.

ALL Aloen.

It wuz eezy to promis self-abnegaeshon when self wuz rapt up in anuther, and hart and soel wer puerified by a sweet exampl; but when th helpful vois wuz silent, th daily leson oever, th beluved presence gon, and nuthing remaend but loenlynes and greef, then Jo found her promis verry hard to keep. How cuud she "cumfort faather and muther," when her oen hart aekt with a seesles longing for her sister; how cuud she "maek th hous cheerful," when all its liet and warmth and buety seemd to hav dezurted it when Beth left th oeld hoem for th nue; and whaer in all th wurld cuud she "fiend sum uesful, hapy wurk to do," that wuud taek th plaess of th luving survis which had been its oen reword? She tried in a bliend, hoeples wae to do her duty, seecretly rebeling against it all th whiel, for it seemd unjust that her fue joys should be lesend, her burdens maed hevyer, and lief get harder and harder as she toild along. Sum peepl seemd to get all sunshine, and sum all shado; it wuz not faer, for she tried mor than Amy to be guud, but never got any reword, oenly disapointment, trubl, and hard wurk.

Puur Jo, thees wer dark daes to her, for sumthing liek despaer caem oever her when she thaut of spending all her lief in that qieet hous, devoeted to humdrum caers, a fue small plezhers, and th duty that never seemd to gro any eezyer. "I can't do it. I wasn't ment for a lief liek this, and I noe I shal braek away and do sumthing desperat if sumbody don't cum and help me," she sed to herself, when her furst eforts faeld, and she fel into th moody, mizerabl staet of miend which ofen cums when strong wils hav to yeeld to th inevitabl.

517 But sum wun did cum and help her, tho Jo did not recogniez her guud aenjels at wunss, because thae wor familyar shaeps, and uezd th simpl spels best fited to puur huemanity. Ofen she started up at niet, thinking Beth called her; and when th siet of th litl empty bed maed her cri with th biter cri of an unsubmissive sorro, "O Beth, cum bak! cum bak!" she did not strech out her yurning arms in vaen; for, as qik to heer her sobing as she had been to heer her sister's faentest whisper, her muther caem to cumfort her, not with wurds oenly, but th paeshent tenderness that soothes by a tuch, teers that wer muet remienders of a graeter greef than Jo's, and broeken whispers, mor eloquent than praers, because hoepful rezignaeshon went hand-in-hand with nacheral sorro. Saecred moements, when hart taukt to hart in th silence of th niet, turning aflikshon to a blesing, which chaesend greef and strengthend luv. Feeling this, Jo's burden seemd eezyer to baer, duty groo sweeter, and lief luukt mor endurable, seen from th saef shelter of her muther's arms.

When aeking hart wuz a litl cumforted, trubld miend liekwiez found help; for wun dae she went to th study, and, leening oever th guud grae hed lifted to welcum her with a tranquil smiel, she sed, verry humbly,—

"Faather, tauk to me as U did to Beth. I need it mor than she did, for I'm all rong."

"Mi deer, nuthing can cumfort me liek this," he anserd, with a faulter in his vois, and boeth arms round her, as if he, too, needed help, and did not feer to ask it.

Jo and her father

Then, sitting in Beth's litl chaer cloez besied him, Jo toeld her trubls,—th rezentful sorro for her lost, th frootles eforts that discurejd her, th wont of faeth that maed lief luuk so dark, and all th sad bewilderment which we call despaer. She gaev him entier confidenss, he gaev her th help she needed, and boeth found consolaeshon in th akt; for th tiem had cum when thae cuud tauk together not oenly as faather and dauter, but as man and wuuman, aebl and glad to surv eech uther with muechual simpathy as wel as muechual luv. Hapy, thautful times thaer in th oeld study which Jo called "th church of wun member," and from which she caem with fresh curej, 518 recuverd cheerfulnes, and a mor submissive spirit; for th paerents hoo had taut wun chield to meet deth without feer, wer trieing now to teech anuther to accept lief without despondensy or distrust, and to uez its buetiful oportuenitys with gratitood and power.

Uther helps had Jo,—humbl, hoelsum duties and deliets that wuud not be denied thaer part in surving her, and which she sloely lurnd to see and value. Brooms and dishcloths never cuud be as distasteful as thae wunss had been, for Beth had prezieded oever boeth; and sumthing of her housewifely spirit seemd to lingger round th litl mop and th oeld brush, that wuz never throen away. As she uezd them, Jo found herself huming th songs Beth uezd to hum, imitaeting Beth's orderly waes, and giving th litl tuches heer and thaer that kept everything fresh and cosey, which wuz th furst step tord maeking hoem hapy, tho she didn't noe it, till Hannah sed with an aprooving sqeez of th hand,—

"U thautful creter, U're deturmind we sha'n't mis that deer lam ef U can help it. We don't sae much, but we see it, and th Lord wil bles U for't, see ef He don't."

519 As thae sat soeing together, Jo discuverd how much improovd her sister Meg wuz; how wel she cuud tauk, how much she knew about guud, wuumanly impulses, thoughts, and feelings, how hapy she wuz in huzband and children, and how much thae wer all dooing for eech uther.

"Marrej is an exselent thing, after all. I wunder if I should blossom out haf as wel as U hav, if I tried it?" sed Jo, as she construkted a kiet for Demi, in th topsy-turvy nursery.

"It's just whut U need to bring out th tender, wuumanly haf of yuur naechuur, Jo. U ar liek a chestnut-burr, prickly outsied, but silky-soft within, and a sweet curnel, if wun can oenly get at it. Luv wil maek U sho yuur hart sum dae, and then th ruf burr wil faul off."

"Frost oepens chestnut-burrs, maa'am, and it taeks a guud shaek to bring them doun. Boys go nutting, and I don't caer to be bagd by them," returnd Jo, paesting away at th kiet which no wiend that bloes wuud ever carry up, for Daezy had tied herself on as a bob.

Meg laft, for she wuz glad to see a glimer of Jo's oeld spirit, but she felt it her duty to enforss her opinyon by every arguement in her power; and th sisterly chats wer not waested, especially as too of Meg's moest efektiv arguments wer th baebys, hoom Jo luvd tenderly. Greef is th best oepener for sum harts, and Jo's wuz neerly redy for th bag: a litl mor sunshine to riepen th nut, then, not a boy's impaeshent shaek, but a man's hand reached up to pik it jently from th burr, and fiend th curnel sound and sweet. If she had suspekted this, she wuud hav shut up tight, and been mor prickly than ever; forchunatly she wasn't thinking about herself, so, when th tiem caem, doun she dropt.

Now, if she had been th herroein of a moral story-book, she aut at this period of her lief to hav becum qiet saently, renounst th wurld, and gon about dooing guud in a mortified bonnet, with tracts in her poket. But, U see, Jo wasn't a herroein; she wuz oenly a strugling hueman gurl, liek hundreds of others, and she just akted out her naechuur, being sad, cros, listles, or enerjetik, as th mood sugjested. It's hiely vurchu’us to sae we'll be guud, but we can't do it all at wunss, and it taeks a long puul, a strong puul, and a puul all together, befor 520 sum of us eeven get our feet set in th riet wae. Jo had got so far, she wuz lurning to do her duty, and to feel unhapy if she did not; but to do it cheerfuly—ah, that wuz anuther thing! She had ofen sed she wontedw to do sumthing splendid, no mater how hard; and now she had her wish, for whut cuud be mor buetiful than to devoet her lief to faather and muther, trieing to maek hoem as hapy to them as thae had to her? And, if dificultys wer nesesaery to increess th splendor of th efort, whut cuud be harder for a restles, ambishus gurl than to giv up her oen hoeps, plans, and deziers, and cheerfuly liv for others?

Providence had taeken her at her wurd; heer wuz th task, not whut she had expected, but beter, because self had no part in it: now, cuud she do it? She desieded that she wuud tri; and, in her furst atempt, she found th helps I hav sugjested. Still anuther wuz given her, and she tuuk it, not as a reword, but as a cumfort, as Christian tuuk th refreshment afforded by th litl arbor whaer he rested, as he cliemd th hil called Dificulty.

"Whi don't U riet? That aulwaes uezd to maek U hapy," sed her muther, wunss, when th desponding fit oevershadoed Jo.

"I've no hart to riet, and if I had, noebody caers for mi things."

"We do; riet sumthing for us, and never miend th rest of th wurld. Tri it, deer; I'm shuur it wuud do U guud, and pleez us verry much."

"Don't beleev I can;" but Jo got out her desk, and began to overhaul her haf-finisht manuescripts.

An our afterward her muther peept in, and thaer she wuz, scraching away, with her blak pinafore on, and an absorbd expreshon, which cauzd Mrs. March to smiel, and slip away, wel pleezd with th success of her sugjeschon. Jo never knew how it happened, but sumthing got into that story that went straet to th harts of thoes hoo red it; for, when her family had laft and cried oever it, her faather sent it, much against her wil, to wun of th popuelar magazeens, and, to her uter serpriez, it wuz not oenly paed for, but others reqested. Leters from several pursons, hoos praez wuz onor, foloed th apeeranss of th litl story, nuezpaepers copyd it, and straenjers as wel as frends admierd it. For a small thing it wuz a graet success; 521 and Jo wuz mor astonisht than when her novel wuz comended and condemd all at wunss.

"I don't understand it. Whut can thaer be in a simpl litl story liek that, to maek peepl praez it so?" she sed, qiet bewildered.

"Thaer is trooth in it, Jo, that's th seecret; huemor and pathos maek it aliev, and U hav found yuur stiel at last. U roet with no thaut of faem or muny, and put yuur hart into it, mi dauter; U hav had th biter, now cums th sweet. Do yuur best, and gro as hapy as we ar in yuur success."

"If thaer is anything guud or troo in whut I riet, it isn't mien; I oe it all to U and muther and to Beth," sed Jo, mor tucht by her faather's wurds than by any amount of praez from th wurld.

So, taut by luv and sorro, Jo roet her litl storys, and sent them away to maek frends for themselvs and her, fiending it a verry charritabl wurld to such humbl waanderers; for thae wer kiendly welcumd, and sent hoem comfortable toekens to thaer muther, liek dutiful children hoom guud forchun oevertaeks.

When Amy and Laurie roet of thaer engaejment, Mrs. March feerd that Jo wuud fiend it dificult to rejois oever it, but her feers wer soon set at rest; for, tho Jo luukt graev at furst, she tuuk it verry qieetly, and wuz fuul of hoeps and plans for "th children" befor she red th leter twice. It wuz a sort of riten dueet, whaerin eech glorified th uther in luver-liek fashon, verry plezant to red and satisfaktory to think of, for no wun had any objekshon to maek.

"U liek it, muther?" sed Jo, as thae laed doun th cloesly riten sheets, and luukt at wun anuther.

"Yes, I hoept it wuud be so, ever sinss Amy roet that she had refuezd Fred. I felt shuur then that sumthing beter than whut U call th 'mursenaery spirit' had cum oever her, and a hint heer and thaer in her leters maed me suspekt that luv and Laurie wuud win th dae."

"How sharp U ar, Marmee, and how silent! U never sed a wurd to me."

"Muthers hav need of sharp ies and discrete tungs when thae hav gurls to manej. I wuz haf afraed to put th iedeea into yuur hed, lest U should riet and congrachulaet them befor th thing wuz setld."

522 "I'm not th scater-braen I wuz; U mae trust me, I'm soeber and sensibl enough for any wun's confidante now."

"So U ar, deer, and I should hav maed U mien, oenly I fansyd it miet paen U to lurn that yuur Teddy luvd any wun else."

"Now, muther, did U reealy think I cuud be so sily and selfish, after I'd refuezd his luv, when it wuz freshest, if not best?"

"I knew U wer sincere then, Jo, but laetly I hav thaut that if he caem bak, and askt again, U miet, perhaps, feel liek giving anuther anser. Forgiv me, deer, I can't help seeing that U ar verry loenly, and sumtiems thaer is a hunggry luuk in yuur ies that goes to mi hart; so I fansyd that yuur boy miet fil th empty plaess if he tried now."

"No, muther, it is beter as it is, and I'm glad Amy has lurnd to luv him. But U ar riet in wun thing: I am loenly, and perhaps if Teddy had tried again, I miet hav sed 'Yes,' not because I luv him any mor, but because I caer mor to be luvd than when he went away."

"I'm glad of that, Jo, for it shoes that U ar geting on. Thaer ar plenty to luv U, so tri to be satisfied with faather and muther, sisters and bruthers, frends and baebys, till th best luver of all cums to giv U yuur reword."

"Muthers ar th best luvers in th wurld; but I don't miend whispering to Marmee that I'd liek to tri all kiends. It's verry cuerius, but th mor I tri to satisfi mieself with all sorts of nacheral affections, th mor I seem to wont. I'd no iedeea harts cuud taek in so meny; mien is so elastic, it never seems fuul now, and I uezd to be qiet contented with mi family. I don't understand it."

"I do;" and Mrs. March smield her wiez smiel, as Jo turnd bak th leevs to red whut Amy sed of Laurie.

"It is so buetiful to be luvd as Laurie luvs me; he isn't sentimental, doesn't sae much about it, but I see and feel it in all he sez and duz, and it maeks me so hapy and so humbl that I don't seem to be th saem gurl I wuz. I never knew how guud and jenerus and tender he wuz till now, for he lets me red his hart, and I fiend it fuul of noebl impulses and hoeps and purposes, and am so proud to noe it's mien. He sez he feels as if he 'cuud maek a prosperous 523 voyej now with me abord as maet, and lots of luv for balast.' I prae he mae, and tri to be all he beleevs me, for I luv mi galant capten with all mi hart and soel and miet, and never wil dezurt him, whiel God lets us be together. O muther, I never knew how much liek heven this wurld cuud be, when too peepl luv and liv for wun anuther!"

"And that's our cool, rezurvd, and wurldly Amy! Truly, luv duz wurk mirakls. How verry, verry hapy thae must be!" And Jo laed th rusling sheets together with a careful hand, as wun miet shut th cuvers of a luvly roemanss, which hoelds th reeder fast till th end cums, and he fiends himself aloen in th wurk-a-dae wurld again.

By and by Jo roemd away upstaers, for it wuz raeny, and she cuud not wauk. A restles spirit possessed her, and th oeld feeling caem again, not biter as it wunss wuz, but a sorroefuly paeshent wunder whi wun sister should hav all she askt, th uther nuthing. It wuz not troo; she knew that, and tried to put it away, but th nacheral craeving for affection wuz strong, and Amy's hapynes woek th hunggry longing for sum wun to "luv with hart and soel, and cling to whiel God let them be together."

Up in th garret, whaer Jo's unqieet waanderings ended, stuud foer litl wuuden chests in a row (noun), eech markt with its oener's naem, and eech fild with reliks of th chieldhuud and gurlhuud ended now for all. Jo glanst into them, and when she caem to her oen, leend her chin on th ej, and staerd absently at th caeotik colekshon, till a bundle of oeld exercise-books caut her ie. She droo them out, turnd them oever, and re-livd that plezant winter at kiend Mrs. Kirke's. She had smield at furst, then she luukt thautful, next sad, and when she caem to a litl mesej riten in th Professor's hand, her lips began to trembl, th books slid out of her lap, and she sat luuking at th frendly wurds, as if thae tuuk a nue meening, and tucht a tender spot in her hart.

"Waet for me, mi frend. I mae be a litl laet, but I shal surely cum."

"O, if he oenly wuud! So kiend, so guud, so paeshent with me aulwaes; mi deer oeld Fritz, I didn't value him haf enough when I had 524 him, but now how I should luv to see him, for every wun seems going away from me, and I'm all aloen."

And hoelding th litl paeper fast, as if it wer a promis yet to be fuulfild, Jo laed her hed doun on a comfortable rag-bag, and cried, as if in opozishon to th raen patering on th roof.

Jo laid her head on a comfortable rag-bag and cried

Wuz it all self-pity, loenlynes, or loe spirits? or wuz it th waeking up of a sentiment which had bided its tiem as paeshently as its inspirer? Hoo shal sae?


XLIII. Serpriezes

525

A substantial lifelike ghost leaning over her

XLIII.

Serpriezes.

Jo wuz aloen in th twilight, lieing on th oeld soefa, luuking at th fier, and thinking. It wuz her faevorit wae of spending th our of dusk; no wun disturbs her, and she uezd to lie thaer on Beth's litl red pilo, planing storys, dreeming dreems, or thinking tender thoughts of th sister hoo never seemd far away. Her faess luukt tierd, graev, and rather sad; for to-morro wuz her burthdae, and she wuz thinking how fast th yeers went by, how oeld she wuz geting, and how litl she seemd to hav accomplished. Aulmoest twenty-fiev, and nuthing to sho for it. Jo wuz mistaeken in that; thaer wuz a guud deel to sho, and by and by she saw, and wuz graetful for it.

"An oeld maed, that's whut I'm to be. A literaery spinster, with a pen for a spouse, a family of storys for children, and twenty yeers 526 henss a morsel of faem, perhaps; when, liek puur Johnson, I'm oeld, and can't enjoy it, solitaery, and can't shaer it, independent, and don't need it. Wel, I needn't be a sour saent nor a selfish siner; and, I daer sae, oeld maeds ar verry comfortable when thae get uezd to it; but—" and thaer Jo sighed, as if th prospekt wuz not invieting.

It seldom is, at furst, and thurty seems th end of all things to fiev-and-twenty; but it's not so bad as it luuks, and wun can get on qiet hapily if wun has sumthing in wun's self to faul bak upon. At twenty-fiev, gurls begin to tauk about being oeld maeds, but seecretly rezolv that thae never wil be; at thurty thae sae nuthing about it, but qieetly accept th fakt, and, if sensibl, consoel themselvs by remembering that thae hav twenty mor uesful, hapy yeers, in which thae mae be lurning to gro oeld graesfuly. Don't laf at th spinsters, deer gurls, for ofen verry tender, tragical roemanses ar hiden away in th harts that beet so qieetly under th soeber gouns, and meny silent sacrifieses of yooth, helth, ambishon, luv itself, maek th faeded faeses buetiful in God's siet. Eeven th sad, sour sisters should be kiendly delt with, because thae hav mist th sweetest part of lief, if for no uther reezon; and, luuking at them with compassion, not contempt, gurls in thaer bloom should remember that thae too mae mis th blossom tiem; that roezy cheeks don't last forever, that silver threds wil cum in th bonnie broun haer, and that, by and by, kiendnes and respekt wil be as sweet as luv and admeraeshon now.

Jentlmen, which means boys, be courteous to th oeld maeds, no mater how puur and plaen and prim, for th oenly chivalry wurth having is that which is th redyest to pae deferenss to th oeld, protect th feebl, and surv wuumankiend, regardles of rank, aej, or culor. Just recolekt th guud aunts hoo hav not oenly lectured and fust, but nurst and peted, too ofen without thanks; th scraeps thae hav helpt U out of, th "tips" thae hav given U from thaer small stor, th stitches th paeshent oeld finggers hav set for U, th steps th wiling oeld feet hav taeken, and graetfuly pae th deer oeld laedys th litl atenshons that wimen luv to reseev as long as thae liv. Th briet-ied gurls ar qik to see such traets, and wil liek U all th beter for them; and if deth, aulmoest th oenly power 527 that can part muther and sun, should rob U of yuurs, U wil be shuur to fiend a tender welcum and maturnal cherrishing from sum Ant Priscilla, hoo has kept th wormest corner of her loenly oeld hart for "th best nevvy in th wurld."

Jo must hav faulen asleep (as I daer sae mi reeder has duuring this litl homily), for sudenly Laurie's goest seemd to stand befor her,—a substantial, liefliek goest,—leening oever her, with th verry luuk he uezd to waer when he felt a guud deel and didn't liek to sho it. But, liek Jeny in th ballad,—

"She cuud not think it he,"

and lae staering up at him in startld silence, till he stoopt and kist her. Then she knew him, and floo up, crieing joyfuly,—

"O mi Teddy! O mi Teddy!"

"Deer Jo, U ar glad to see me, then?"

"Glad! Mi blest boy, wurds can't expres mi gladnes. Whaer's Amy?"

"Yuur muther has got her doun at Meg's. We stopt thaer by th wae, and thaer wuz no geting mi wief out of thaer clutches."

"Yuur whut?" cried Jo, for Laurie uterd thoes too wurds with an unconshus pride and satisfakshon which betraed him.

"O, th dickens! now I've dun it;" and he luukt so guilty that Jo wuz doun upon him liek a flash.

"U've gon and got marryd!"

"Yes, pleez, but I never wil again;" and he went doun upon his nees, with a penitent clasping of hands, and a faess fuul of mischif, murth, and trieumf.

"Akchualy marryd?"

"Verry much so, thank U."

"Mursy on us! Whut dredful thing wil U do next?" and Jo fel into her seet, with a gasp.

"A carrakteristik, but not exaktly complimentary, congrachulaeshon," returnd Laurie, still in an abjekt atitued, but beeming with satisfakshon.

"Whut can U expect, when U taek wun's breth away, creeping in liek a burglar, and leting cats out of bags liek that? Get up, U ridicuelus boy, and tel me all about it."

528 "Not a wurd, unles U let me cum in mi oeld plaess, and promis not to barricade."

Jo laft at that as she had not dun for meny a long dae, and pated th soefa invietingly, as she sed, in a corjal toen,—

"Th oeld pilo is up garret, and we don't need it now; so, cum and 'fes, Teddy."

"How guud it sounds to heer U sae 'Teddy'! No wun ever calls me that but U;" and Laurie sat doun, with an aer of graet content.

"Whut duz Amy call U?"

"Mi lord."

"That's liek her. Wel, U luuk it;" and Jo's ies plainly betraed that she found her boy comelier than ever.

Th pilo wuz gon, but thaer wuz a barricade, nevertheles,—a nacheral wun, raezd by tiem, absence, and chaenj of hart. Boeth felt it, and for a mienuet luukt at wun anuther as if that invizibl barrier cast a litl shado oever them. It wuz gon direktly, however, for Laurie sed, with a vaen atempt at dignity,—

"Don't I luuk liek a marryd man and th hed of a family?"

"Not a bit, and U never wil. U've groen biger and bonnier, but U ar th saem scaepgraess as ever."

"Now, reealy, Jo, U aut to treat me with mor respekt," began Laurie, hoo enjoyd it all imensly.

"How can I, when th meer iedeea of U, marryd and setld, is so irezistibly funy that I can't keep soeber!" anserd Jo, smieling all oever her faess, so infectiously that thae had anuther laf, and then setld doun for a guud tauk, qiet in th plezant oeld fashon.

"It's no uez yuur going out in th coeld to get Amy, for thae ar all cuming up prezently. I couldn't waet; I wontedw to be th wun to tel U th grand serpriez, and hav 'furst skim,' as we uezd to sae when we sqobld about th creem."

"Of corss U did, and spoilt yuur story by begining at th rong end. Now, start riet, and tel me how it all happened; I'm piening to noe."

"Wel, I did it to pleez Amy," began Laurie, with a twinkle that maed Jo exclaem,—

529 "Fib number wun; Amy did it to pleez U. Go on, and tel th trooth, if U can, sur."

"Now she's begining to marm it; isn't it joly to heer her?" sed Laurie to th fier, and th fier gloed and sparkld as if it qiet agreed. "It's all th saem, U noe, she and I being wun. We pland to cum hoem with th Carrols, a munth or mor ago, but thae sudenly chaenjd thaer miends, and desieded to pas anuther winter in Paris. But grandpa wontedw to cum hoem; he went to pleez me, and I couldn't let him go aloen, neether cuud I leev Amy; and Mrs. Carrol had got English noeshons about shaperoens and such nonsenss, and wouldn't let Amy cum with us. So I just setld th dificulty by saeing, 'Let's be marryd, and then we can do as we liek.'"

"Of corss U did; U aulwaes hav things to suit U."

"Not aulwaes;" and sumthing in Laurie's vois maed Jo sae haestily,—

"How did U ever get ant to agree?"

"It wuz hard wurk; but, between us, we taukt her oever, for we had heeps of guud reezons on our sied. Thaer wasn't tiem to riet and ask leev, but U all liked it, had consented to it by and by, and it wuz oenly 'taeking Tiem by th fetlock,' as mi wief sez."

"Aren't we proud of thoes too wurds, and don't we liek to sae them?" interupted Jo, adresing th fier in her turn, and woching with deliet th hapy liet it seemd to kindl in th ies that had been so trajikaly gloomy when she saw them last.

"A trifle, perhaps; she's such a captivaeting litl wuuman I can't help being proud of her. Wel, then, unkl and ant wer thaer to plae propriety; we wer so absorbd in wun anuther we wer of no mortal uez apart, and that charming araenjment wuud maek everything eezy all round; so we did it."

"When, whaer, how?" askt Jo, in a feever of feminine interest and cueriosity, for she cuud not reealiez it a partikl.

"Six weeks ago, at th American consul's, in Paris; a verry qieet weding, of corss, for eeven in our hapynes we didn't forget deer litl Beth."

Jo put her hand in his as he sed that, and Laurie jently smoothd th litl red pilo, which he rememberd wel.

530 "Whi didn't U let us noe afterward?" askt Jo, in a qieeter toen, when thae had sat qiet still a mienuet.

"We wontedw to serpriez U; we thaut we wer cuming direktly hoem, at furst; but th deer oeld jentlman, as soon as we wer marryd, found he couldn't be redy under a munth, at leest, and sent us off to spend our hunymoon whaerever we liked. Amy had wunss called Valrosa a reguelar hunymoon hoem, so we went thaer, and wer as hapy as peepl ar but wunss in thaer lievs. Mi faeth! wasn't it luv amung th roezes!"

Laurie seemd to forget Jo for a mienuet, and Jo wuz glad of it; for th fakt that he toeld her thees things so freely and nacheraly ashuurd her that he had qiet forgiven and forgoten. She tried to draw away her hand; but, as if he guessed th thaut that prompted th haf-involuntaery impulss, Laurie held it fast, and sed, with a manly gravity she had never seen in him befor,—

"Jo, deer, I wont to sae wun thing, and then we'll put it by forever. As I toeld U in mi leter, when I roet that Amy had b