It was well named; and the Muses seemed to be at home that day, for
as the newcomers went up the slope appropriate sights and sounds
greeted them. Passing an open window, they looked in upon a library
presided over by Clio, Calliope, and Urania; Melpomene and Thalia
were disporting themselves in the hall, where some young people were
dancing and rehearsing a play; Erato was walking in the garden with
her lover, and in the music-room Phoebus himself was drilling a
A mature Apollo was our old friend Laurie, but comely and genial as
ever; for time had ripened the freakish boy into a noble man. Care
and sorrow, as well as ease and happiness, had done much for him; and
the responsibility of carrying out his grandfather's wishes had been
a duty most faithfully performed. Prosperity suits some people, and
they blossom best in a glow of sunshine; others need the shade, and
are the sweeter for a touch of frost. Laurie was one of the former
sort, and Amy was another; so life had been a kind of poem to them
since they married—not only harmonious and happy, but earnest,
useful, and rich in the beautiful benevolence which can do so much
when wealth and wisdom go hand in hand with charity. Their house was
full of unostentatious beauty and comfort, and here the art-loving
host and hostess attracted and entertained artists of all kinds.
Laurie had music enough now, and was a generous patron to the class
he most liked to help. Amy had her proteges among ambitious young
painters and sculptors, and found her own art double dear as her
daughter grew old enough to share its labours and delights with her;
for she was one of those who prove that women can be faithful wives
and mothers without sacrificing the special gift bestowed upon them
for their own development and the good of others.
Her sisters knew where to find her, and Jo went at once to the
studio, where mother and daughter worked together. Bess was busy with
the bust of a little child, while her mother added the last touches
to a fine head of her husband. Time seemed to have stood still with
Amy, for happiness had kept her young and prosperity given her the
culture she needed. A stately, graceful woman, who showed how elegant
simplicity could be made by the taste with which she chose her dress
and the grace with which she wore it. As someone said: “I never know
what Mrs Laurence has on, but I always receive the impression that
she is the best-dressed lady in the room.”
It was evident that she adored her daughter, and well she might; for
the beauty she had longed for seemed, to her fond eyes at least, to
be impersonated in this younger self. Bess inherited her mother's
Diana-like figure, blue eyes, fair skin, and golden hair, tied up in
the same classic knot of curls. Also—ah! never-ending source of joy
to Amy—she had her father's handsome nose and mouth, cast in a
feminine mould. The severe simplicity of a long linen pinafore suited
her; and she worked away with the entire absorption of the true
artist, unconscious of the loving eyes upon her, till Aunt Jo came in
“My dear girls, stop your mud-pies and hear the news!”
Both artists dropped their tools and greeted the irrepressible woman
cordially, though genius had been burning splendidly and her coming
spoilt a precious hour. They were in the full tide of gossip when
Laurie, who had been summoned by Meg, arrived, and sitting down
between the sisters, with no barricade anywhere, listened with
interest to the news of Franz and Emil.
“The epidemic has broke out, and now it will rage and ravage your
flock. Be prepared for every sort of romance and rashness for the
next ten years, Jo. Your boys are growing up and will plunge headlong
into a sea of worse scrapes than any you have had yet,” said Laurie,
enjoying her look of mingled delight and despair.
“I know it, and I hope I shall be able to pull them through and land
them safely; but it's an awful responsibility, for they will come to
me and insist that I can make their poor little loves run smoothly. I
like it, though, and Meg is such a mush of sentiment she revels in
the prospect,” answered Jo, feeling pretty easy about her own boys,
whose youth made them safe for the present.
“I'm afraid she won't revel when our Nat begins to buzz too near her
Daisy. Of course you see what all that means? As musical director I
am also his confidante, and would like to know what advice to give,”
said Laurie soberly. “Hush! you forget that child,” began Jo, nodding
towards Bess, who was at work again.
“Bless you! she's in Athens, and doesn't hear a word. She ought to
leave off, though, and go out. My darling, put the baby to sleep, and
go for a run. Aunt Meg is in the parlour; go and show her the new
pictures till we come,” added Laurie, looking at his tall girl as
Pygmalion might have looked at Galatea; for he considered her the
finest statue in the house.
“Yes, papa; but please tell me if it is good”; and Bess obediently
put down her tools, with a lingering glance at the bust.
“My cherished daughter, truth compels me to confess that one cheek is
plumper than the other; and the curls upon its infant brow are rather
too much like horns for perfect grace; otherwise it rivals Raphael's
Chanting Cherubs, and I'm proud of it.”
Laurie was laughing as he spoke; for these first attempts were so
like Amy's early ones, it was impossible to regard them as soberly as
the enthusiastic mamma did.
“You can't see beauty in anything but music,” answered Bess, shaking
the golden head that made the one bright spot in the cool north
lights of the great studio.
“Well, I see beauty in you, dear. And if you are not art, what is? I
wish to put a little more nature into you, and get you away from this
cold clay and marble into the sunshine, to dance and laugh as the
others do. I want a flesh-and-blood girl, not a sweet statue in a
grey pinafore, who forgets everything but her work.” As he spoke, two
dusty hands came round his neck, and Bess said earnestly, punctuating
her words with soft touches of her lips:
“I never forget you, papa; but I do want to do something beautiful
that you may be proud of me by and by. Mamma often tells me to stop;
but when we get in here we forget there is any world outside, we are
so busy and so happy. Now I'll go and run and sing, and be a girl to
please you.” And throwing away the apron, Bess vanished from the
room, seeming to take all the light with her.
“I'm glad you said that. The dear child is too much absorbed in her
artistic dreams for one so young. It is my fault; but I sympathize so
deeply in it all, I forget to be wise,” sighed Amy, carefully
covering the baby with a wet towel.
“I think this power of living in our children is one of the sweetest
things in the world; but I try to remember what Marmee once said to
Meg—that fathers should have their share in the education of both
girls and boys; so I leave Ted to his father all I can, and Fritz
lends me Rob, whose quiet ways are as restful and good for me as
Ted's tempests are for his father. Now I advise you, Amy, to let Bess
drop the mud-pies for a time, and take up music with Laurie; then she
won't be one-sided, and he won't be jealous.”
“Hear, hear! A Daniel—a very Daniel!” cried Laurie, well pleased. “I
thought you'd lend a hand, Jo, and say a word for me. I am a little
jealous of Amy, and want more of a share in my girl. Come, my lady,
let me have her this summer, and next year, when we go to Rome, I'll
give her up to you and high art. Isn't that a fair bargain?”
“I agree; but in trying your hobby, nature, with music thrown in,
don't forget that, though only fifteen, our Bess is older than most
girls of that age, and cannot be treated like a child. She is so very
precious to me, I feel as if I wanted to keep her always as pure and
beautiful as the marble she loves so well.”
Amy spoke regretfully as she looked about the lovely room where she
had spent so many happy hours with this dear child of hers.
“"Turn and turn about is fair play", as we used to say when we all
wanted to ride on Ellen Tree or wear the russet boots,” said Jo
briskly; “so you must share your girl between you, and see who will
do the most for her.”
“We will,” answered the fond parents, laughing at the recollections
Jo's proverb brought up to them.
“How I did use to enjoy bouncing on the limbs of that old apple-tree!
No real horse ever gave me half the pleasure or the exercise,” said
Amy, looking out of the high window as if she saw the dear old
orchard again and the little girls at play there.
“And what fun I had with those blessed boots!” laughed Jo. “I've got
the relics now. The boys reduced them to rags; but I love them still,
and would enjoy a good theatrical stalk in them if it were possible.”
“My fondest memories twine about the warming-pan and the sausage.
What larks we had! And how long ago it seems!” said Laurie, staring
at the two women before him as if he found it hard to realize that
they ever had been little Amy and riotous Jo.
“Don't suggest that we are growing old, my Lord. We have only
bloomed; and a very nice bouquet we make with our buds about us,”
answered Mrs Amy, shaking out the folds of her rosy muslin with much
the air of dainty satisfaction the girl used to show in a new dress.
“Not to mention our thorns and dead leaves,” added Jo, with a sigh;
for life had never been very easy to her, and even now she had her
troubles both within and without.
“Come and have a dish of tea, old dear, and see what the young folks
are about. You are tired, and want to be "stayed with flagons and
comforted with apples",” said Laurie, offering an arm to each sister,
and leading them away to afternoon tea, which flowed as freely on
Parnassus as the nectar of old.
They found Meg in the summer-parlour, an airy and delightful room,
full now of afternoon sunshine and the rustle of trees; for the three
long windows opened on the garden. The great music-room was at one
end, and at the other, in a deep alcove hung with purple curtains, a
little household shrine had been made. Three portraits hung there,
two marble busts stood in the corners, and a couch, an oval table,
with its urn of flowers, were the only articles of furniture the nook
contained. The busts were John Brooke and Beth—Amy's work—both
excellent likenesses, and both full of the placid beauty which always
recalls the saying, that “Clay represents life; plaster, death;
marble, immortality”. On the right, as became the founder of the
house, hung the portrait of Mr Laurence, with its expression of
mingled pride and benevolence, as fresh and attractive as when he
caught the girl Jo admiring it. Opposite was Aunt March—a legacy to
Amy—in an imposing turban, immense sleeves, and long mittens
decorously crossed on the front of her plum-coloured satin gown. Time
had mellowed the severity of her aspect; and the fixed regard of the
handsome old gentleman opposite seemed to account for the amiable
simper on lips that had not uttered a sharp word for years.
In the place of honour, with the sunshine warm upon it, and a green
garland always round it, was Marmee's beloved face, painted with
grateful skill by a great artist whom she had befriended when poor
and unknown. So beautifully lifelike was it that it seemed to smile
down upon her daughters, saying cheerfully:
“Be happy; I am with you still.”
The three sisters stood a moment looking up at the beloved picture
with eyes full of tender reverence and the longing that never left
them; for this noble mother had been so much to them that no one
could ever fill her place. Only two years since she had gone away to
live and love anew, leaving such a sweet memory behind her that it
was both an inspiration and a comforter to all the household. They
felt this as they drew closer to one another, and Laurie put it into
words as he said earnestly:
“I can ask nothing better for my child than that she may be a woman
like our mother. Please God, she shall be, if I can do it; for I owe
the best I have to this dear saint.”
Just then a fresh voice began to sing “Ave Maria” in the music-room,
and Bess unconsciously echoed her father's prayer for her as she
dutifully obeyed his wishes. The soft sound of the air Marmee used to
sing led the listeners back into the world again from that momentary
reaching after the loved and lost, and they sat down together near
the open windows enjoying the music, while Laurie brought them tea,
making the little service pleasant by the tender care he gave to it.
Nat came in with Demi, soon followed by Ted and Josie, the Professor
and his faithful Rob, all anxious to hear more about “the boys”. The
rattle of cups and tongues grew brisk, and the setting sun saw a
cheerful company resting in the bright room after the varied labours
of the day.
Professor Bhaer was grey now, but robust and genial as ever; for he
had the work he loved, and did it so heartily that the whole college
felt his beautiful influence. Rob was as much like him as it was
possible for a boy to be, and was already called the “young
Professor”, he so adored study and closely imitated his honoured
father in all ways.
“Well, heart's dearest, we go to have our boys again, all two, and
may rejoice greatly,” said Mr Bhaer, seating himself beside Jo with a
beaming face and a handshake of congratulation.
“Oh, Fritz, I'm so delighted about Emil, and if you approve about
Franz also. Did you know Ludmilla? Is it a wise match?” asked Mrs Jo,
handing him her cup of tea and drawing closer, as if she welcomed her
refuge in joy as well as sorrow.
“It all goes well. I saw the Madchen when I went over to place Franz.
A child then, but most sweet and charming. Blumenthal is satisfied, I
think, and the boy will be happy. He is too German to be content away
from Vaterland, so we shall have him as a link between the new and
the old, and that pleases me much.”
“And Emil, he is to be second mate next voyage; isn't that fine? I'm
so happy that both your boys have done well; you gave up so much for
them and their mother. You make light of it, dear, but I never forget
it,” said Jo, with her hand in his as sentimentally as if she was a
girl again and her Fritz had come a-wooing.
He laughed his cheery laugh, and whispered behind her fan: “If I had
not come to America for the poor lads, I never should have found my
Jo. The hard times are very sweet now, and I bless Gott for all I
seemed to lose, because I gained the blessing of my life.”
“Spooning! spooning! Here's an awful flirtation on the sly,” cried
Teddy, peering over the fan just at that interesting moment, much to
his mother's confusion and his father's amusement; for the Professor
never was ashamed of the fact that he still considered his wife the
dearest woman in the world. Rob promptly ejected his brother from one
window, to see him skip in at the other, while Mrs Jo shut her fan
and held it ready to rap her unruly boy's knuckles if he came near
Nat approached in answer to Mr Bhaer's beckoning teaspoon, and stood
before them with a face full of the respectful affection he felt for
the excellent man who had done so much for him.
“I have the letters ready for thee, my son. They are two old friends
of mine in Leipzig, who will befriend thee in that new life. It is
well to have them, for thou wilt be heartbroken with Heimweh at the
first, Nat, and need comforting,” said the Professor, giving him
“Thanks, sir. Yes, I expect to be pretty lonely till I get started,
then my music and the hope of getting on will cheer me up,” answered
Nat, who both longed and dreaded to leave all these friends behind
him and make new ones.
He was a man now; but the blue eyes were as honest as ever, the mouth
still a little weak, in spite of the carefully cherished moustache
over it, and the broad forehead more plainly than ever betrayed the
music-loving nature of the youth. Modest, affectionate, and dutiful,
Nat was considered a pleasant though not a brilliant success by Mrs
Jo. She loved and trusted him, and was sure he would do his best, but
did not expect that he would be great in any way, unless the stimulus
of foreign training and self-dependence made him a better artist and
a stronger man than now seemed likely.
“I've marked all your things—or rather, Daisy did—and as soon as
your books are collected, we can see about the packing,” said Mrs Jo,
who was so used to fitting boys off for all quarters of the globe
that a trip to the North Pole would not have been too much for her.
Nat grew red at mention of that name—or was it the last glow of
sunset on his rather pale cheek?—and his heart beat happily at the
thought of the dear girl working Ns and Bs on his humble socks and
handkerchiefs; for Nat adored Daisy, and the cherished dream of his
life was to earn a place for himself as a musician and win this angel
for his wife. This hope did more for him than the Professor's
counsels, Mrs Jo's care, or Mr Laurie's generous help. For her sake
he worked, waited, and hoped, finding courage and patience in the
dream of that happy future when Daisy should make a little home for
him and he fiddle a fortune into her lap. Mrs Jo knew this; and
though he was not exactly the man she would have chosen for her
niece, she felt that Nat would always need just the wise and loving
care Daisy could give him, and that without it there was danger of
his being one of the amiable and aimless men who fail for want of the
right pilot to steer them safely through the world. Mrs Meg decidedly
frowned upon the poor boy's love, and would not hear of giving her
dear girl to any but the best man to be found on the face of the
earth. She was very kind, but as firm as such gentle souls can be;
and Nat fled for comfort to Mrs Jo, who always espoused the interests
of her boys heartily. A new set of anxieties was beginning now that
the aforesaid boys were growing up, and she foresaw no end of worry
as well as amusement in the love-affairs already budding in her
flock. Mrs Meg was usually her best ally and adviser, for she loved
romances as well now as when a blooming girl herself. But in this
case she hardened her heart, and would not hear a word of entreaty.
“Nat was not man enough, never would be, no one knew his family, a
musician's life was a hard one; Daisy was too young, five or six
years hence when time had proved both perhaps. Let us see what
absence will do for him.” And that was the end of it, for when the
maternal Pelican was roused she could be very firm, though for her
precious children she would have plucked her last feather and given
the last drop of her blood.
Mrs Jo was thinking of this as she looked at Nat while he talked with
her husband about Leipzig, and she resolved to have a clear
understanding with him before he went; for she was used to
confidences, and talked freely with her boys about the trials and
temptations that beset all lives in the beginning, and so often mar
them, for want of the right word at the right moment.
This is the first duty of parents, and no false delicacy should keep
them from the watchful care, the gentle warning, which makes
self-knowledge and self-control the compass and pilot of the young as
they leave the safe harbour of home.
“Plato and his disciples approach,” announced irreverent Teddy, as Mr
March came in with several young men and women about him; for the
wise old man was universally beloved, and ministered so beautifully
to his flock that many of them thanked him all their lives for the
help given to both hearts and souls.
Bess went to him at once; for since Marmee died, Grandpapa was her
special care, and it was sweet to see the golden head bend over the
silver one as she rolled out his easy-chair and waited on him with
“Aesthetic tea always on tap here, sir; will you have a flowing bowl
or a bit of ambrosia?” asked Laurie, who was wandering about with a
sugar-basin in one hand and a plate of cake in the other; for
sweetening cups and feeding the hungry was work he loved.
“Neither, thanks; this child has taken care of me”; and Mr March
turned to Bess, who sat on one arm of his chair, holding a glass of
“Long may she live to do it, sir, and I be here to see this pretty
contradiction of the song that "youth and age cannot live together"!”
answered Laurie, smiling at the pair. “"Crabbed age", papa; that
makes all the difference in the world,” said Bess quickly; for she
loved poetry, and read the best.
“Wouldst thou see fresh roses grow
In a reverend bed of snow?”
quoted Mr March, as Josie came and perched on the other arm, looking
like a very thorny little rose; for she had been having a hot
discussion with Ted, and had got the worst of it.
“Grandpa, must women always obey men and say they are the wisest,
just because they are the strongest?” she cried, looking fiercely at
her cousin, who came stalking up with a provoking smile on the boyish
face that was always very comical atop of that tall figure.
“Well, my dear, that is the old-fashioned belief, and it will take
some time to change it. But I think the woman's hour has struck; and
it looks to me as if the boys must do their best, for the girls are
abreast now, and may reach the goal first,” answered Mr March,
surveying with paternal satisfaction the bright faces of the young
women, who were among the best students in the college.
“The poor little Atalantas are sadly distracted and delayed by the
obstacles thrown in their way—not golden apples, by any means — but
I think they will stand a fair chance when they have learned to run
better,” laughed Uncle Laurie, stroking Josie's breezy hair, which
stood up like the fur of an angry kitten.
“Whole barrels of apples won't stop me when I start, and a dozen Teds
won't trip me up, though they may try. I'll show him that a woman can
act as well, if not better, than a man. It has been done, and will be
again; and I'll never own that my brain isn't as good as his, though
it may be smaller,” cried the excited young person.
“If you shake your head in that violent way you'll addle what brains
you have got; and I'd take care of 'em, if I were you,” began teasing
“What started this civil war?” asked Grandpapa, with a gentle
emphasis on the adjective, which caused the combatants to calm their
ardour a little.
“Why, we were pegging away at the Iliad and came to where Zeus tells
Juno not to inquire into his plans or he'll whip her, and Jo was
disgusted because Juno meekly hushed up. I said it was all right, and
agreed with the old fellow that women didn't know much and ought to
obey men,” explained Ted, to the great amusement of his hearers.
“Goddesses may do as they like, but those Greek and Trojan women were
poor-spirited things if they minded men who couldn't fight their own
battles and had to be hustled off by Pallas, and Venus, and Juno,
when they were going to get beaten. The idea of two armies stopping
and sitting down while a pair of heroes flung stones at one another!
I don't think much of your old Homer. Give me Napoleon or Grant for
Josie's scorn was as funny as if a humming-bird scolded at an
ostrich, and everyone laughed as she sniffed at the immortal poet and
criticized the gods.
“Napoleon's Juno had a nice time; didn't she? That's just the way
girls argue—first one way and then the other,” jeered Ted.
“Like Johnson's young lady, who was "not categorical, but all
wiggle-waggle",” added Uncle Laurie, enjoying the battle immensely.
“I was only speaking of them as soldiers. But if you come to the
woman side of it, wasn't Grant a kind husband and Mrs Grant a happy
woman? He didn't threaten to whip her if she asked a natural
question; and if Napoleon did do wrong about Josephine, he could
fight, and didn't want any Minerva to come fussing over him. They
were a stupid set, from dandified Paris to Achilles sulking in his
ships, and I won't change my opinion for all the Hectors and
Agamemnons in Greece,” said Josie, still unconquered.
“You can fight like a Trojan, that's evident; and we will be the two
obedient armies looking on while you and Ted have it out,” began
Uncle Laurie, assuming the attitude of a warrior leaning on his
“I fear we must give it up, for Pallas is about to descend and carry
off our Hector,” said Mr March, smiling, as Jo came to remind her son
that suppertime was near.
“We will fight it out later when there are no goddesses to
interfere,” said Teddy, as he turned away with unusual alacrity,
remembering the treat in store.
“Conquered by a muffin, by Jove!” called Josie after him, exulting in
an opportunity to use the classical exclamation forbidden to her sex.
But Ted shot a Parthian arrow as he retired in good order by
replying, with a highly virtuous expression:
“Obedience is a soldier's first duty.”
Bent on her woman's privilege of having the last word, Josie ran
after him, but never uttered the scathing speech upon her lips, for a
very brown young man in a blue suit came leaping up the steps with a
cheery “Ahoy! ahoy! where is everybody?”
“Emil! Emil!” cried Josie, and in a moment Ted was upon him, and the
late enemies ended their fray in a joyful welcome to the newcomer.
Muffins were forgotten, and towing their cousin like two fussy little
tugs with a fine merchantman, the children returned to the parlour,
where Emil kissed all the women and shook hands with all the men
except his uncle; him he embraced in the good old German style, to
the great delight of the observers.
“Didn't think I could get off today, but found I could, and steered
straight for old Plum. Not a soul there, so I luffed and bore away
for Parnassus, and here is every man Jack of you. Bless your hearts,
how glad I am to see you all!” exclaimed the sailor boy, beaming at
them, as he stood with his legs apart as if he still felt the rocking
deck under his feet.
“You ought to "shiver your timbers", not "bless our hearts", Emil;
it's not nautical at all. Oh, how nice and shippy and tarry you do
smell!” said Josie, sniffing at him with great enjoyment of the fresh
sea odours he brought with him. This was her favourite cousin, and
she was his pet; so she knew that the bulging pockets of the blue
jacket contained treasures for her at least.
“Avast, my hearty, and let me take soundings before you dive,”
laughed Emil, understanding her affectionate caresses, and holding
her off with one hand while with the other he rummaged out sundry
foreign little boxes and parcels marked with different names, and
handed them round with appropriate remarks, which caused much
laughter; for Emil was a wag.
“There's a hawser that will hold our little cock-boat still about
five minutes,” he said, throwing a necklace of pretty pink coral over
Josie's head; “and here's something the mermaids sent to Undine,” he
added, handing Bess a string of pearly shells on a silver chain.
“I thought Daisy would like a fiddle, and Nat can find her a beau,”
continued the sailor, with a laugh, as he undid a dainty filigree
brooch in the shape of a violin.
“I know she will, and I'll take it to her,” answered Nat, as he
vanished, glad of an errand, and sure that he could find Daisy though
Emil had missed her.
Emil chuckled, and handed out a quaintly carved bear whose head
opened, showing a capacious ink-stand. This he presented, with a
scrape, to Aunt Jo.
“Knowing your fondness for these fine animals, I brought this one to
“Very good, Commodore! Try again,” said Mrs Jo, much pleased with her
gift, which caused the Professor to prophesy “works of Shakespeare”
from its depths, so great would be the inspiration of the beloved
“As Aunt Meg will wear caps, in spite of her youth, I got Ludmilla to
get me some bits of lace. Hope you'll like 'em”; and out of a soft
paper came some filmy things, one of which soon lay like a net of
snowflakes on Mrs Meg's pretty hair.
“I couldn't find anything swell enough for Aunt Amy, because she has
everything she wants, so I brought a little picture that always makes
me think of her when Bess was a baby”; and he handed her an oval
ivory locket, on which was painted a goldenhaired Madonna, with a
rosy child folded in her blue mantle.
“How lovely!” cried everyone; and Aunt Amy at once hung it about her
neck on the blue ribbon from Bess's hair, charmed with her gift; for
it recalled the happiest year of her life.
“Now, I flatter myself I've got just the thing for Nan, neat but not
gaudy, a sort of sign you see, and very appropriate for a doctor,”
said Emil, proudly displaying a pair of lava earrings shaped like
“Horrid!” And Bess, who hated ugly things, turned her eyes to her own
“She won't wear earrings,” said Josie.
“Well, she'll enjoy punching your ears then. She's never so happy as
when she's overhauling her fellow creatures and going for 'em with a
knife,” answered Emil, undisturbed. “I've got a lot of plunder for
you fellows in my chest, but I knew I should have no peace till my
cargo for the girls was unloaded. Now tell me all the news.” And,
seated on Amy's best marbletopped table, the sailor swung his legs
and talked at the rate of ten knots an hour, till Aunt Jo carried
them all off to a grand family tea in honour of the Commodore.