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Chapter 21 – Thanksgiving

Louisa May AlcottNov 05, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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This yearly festival was always kept at Plumfield in the good
old-fashioned way, and nothing was allowed to interfere with it.
For days beforehand, the little girls helped Asia and Mrs. Jo in
store-room and kitchen, making pies and puddings, sorting fruit,
dusting dishes, and being very busy and immensely important. The
boys hovered on the outskirts of the forbidden ground, sniffing the
savory odors, peeping in at the mysterious performances, and
occasionally being permitted to taste some delicacy in the process
of preparation.

Something more than usual seemed to be on foot this year, for the
girls were as busy up-stairs as down, so were the boys in
school-room and barn, and a general air of bustle pervaded the
house. There was a great hunting up of old ribbons and finery,
much cutting and pasting of gold paper, and the most remarkable
quantity of straw, gray cotton, flannel, and big black beads, used
by Franz and Mrs. Jo. Ned hammered at strange machines in the
workshop, Demi and Tommy went about murmuring to themselves
as if learning something. A fearful racket was heard in Emil’s room
at intervals, and peals of laughter from the nursery when Rob and
Teddy were sent for and hidden from sight whole hours at a time.
But the thing that puzzled Mr. Bhaer the most was what became of
Rob’s big pumpkin. It had been borne in triumph to the kitchen,
where a dozen golden-tinted pies soon after appeared. It would not
have taken more than a quarter of the mammoth vegetable to make
them, yet where was the rest? It disappeared, and Rob never
seemed to care, only chuckled when it was mentioned, and told his
father, "To wait and see," for the fun of the whole thing was to
surprise Father Bhaer at the end, and not let him know a bit about
what was to happen.

He obediently shut eyes, ears, and mouth, and went about trying
not to see what was in plain sight, not to hear the tell-tale sounds
that filled the air, not to understand any of the perfectly transparent
mysteries going on all about him. Being a German, he loved these
simple domestic festivals, and encouraged them with all his heart,
for they made home so pleasant that the boys did not care to go
elsewhere for fun.

When at last the day came, the boys went off for a long walk, that
they might have good appetites for dinner; as if they ever needed
them! The girls remained at home to help set the table, and give
last touches to various affairs which filled their busy little souls
with anxiety. The school-room had been shut up since the night
before, and Mr. Bhaer was forbidden to enter it on pain of a
beating from Teddy, who guarded the door like a small dragon,
though he was dying to tell about it, and nothing but his father’s
heroic self-denial in not listening, kept him from betraying a grand
secret.

"It’s all done, and it’s perfectly splendid," cried Nan, coming out at
last with an air of triumph.

"The you know goes beautifully, and Silas knows just what to do
now," added Daisy, skipping with delight at some unspeakable
success.

"I’m blest if it ain’t the ‘cutest thing I ever see, them critters in
particular," said Silas, who had been let into the secret, went off
laughing like a great boy.

"They are coming; I hear Emil roaring ‘Land lubbers lying down
below,’ so we must run and dress," cried Nan, and up-stairs they
scampered in a great hurry.

The boys came trooping home with appetites that would have
made the big turkey tremble, if it had not been past all fear. They
also retired to dress; and for half-an-hour there was a washing,
brushing, and prinking that would have done any tidy woman’s
heart good to see. When the bell rang, a troop of fresh-faced lads
with shiny hair, clean collars, and Sunday jackets on, filed into the
dining-room, where Mrs. Jo, in her one black silk, with a knot of
her favorite white chrysanthemums in her bosom, sat at the head of
the table, "looking splendid," as the boys said, whenever she got
herself up. Daisy and Nan were as gay as a posy bed in their new
winter dresses, with bright sashes and hair ribbons. Teddy was
gorgeous to behold in a crimson merino blouse, and his best button
boots, which absorbed and distracted him as much as Mr. Toot’s
wristbands did on one occasion.

As Mr. and Mrs. Bhaer glanced at each other down the long table,
with those rows of happy faces on either side, they had a little
thanksgiving all to themselves, and without a word, for one heart
said to the other,

"Our work has prospered, let us be grateful and go on."

The clatter of knives and forks prevented much conversation for a
few minutes, and Mary Ann with an amazing pink bow in her hair
"flew round" briskly, handing plates and ladling out gravy. Nearly
every one had contributed to the feast, so the dinner was a
peculiarly interesting ones to the eaters of it, who beguiled the
pauses by remarks on their own productions.

"If these are not good potatoes I never saw any," observed Jack, as
he received his fourth big mealy one.

"Some of my herbs are in the stuffing of the turkey, that’s why it’s
so nice," said Nan, taking a mouthful with intense satisfaction.

"My ducks are prime any way; Asia said she never cooked such fat
ones," added Tommy.

"Well, our carrots are beautiful, ain’t they, and our parsnips will be
ever so good when we dig them," put in Dick, and Dolly
murmured his assent from behind the bone he was picking.

"I helped make the pies with my pumpkin," called out Robby, with
a laugh which he stopped by retiring into his mug.

"I picked some of the apples that the cider is made of," said Demi.

"I raked the cranberries for the sauce," cried Nat.

"I got the nuts," added Dan, and so it went on all round the table.

"Who made up Thanksgiving?" asked Rob, for being lately
promoted to jacket and trousers he felt a new and manly interest in
the institutions of his country.

"See who can answer that question," and Mr. Bhaer nodded to one
or two of his best history boys.

"I know," said Demi, "the Pilgrims made it."

"What for?" asked Rob, without waiting to learn who the Pilgrims
were.

"I forget," and Demi subsided.

"I believe it was because they were starved once, and so when they
had a good harvest, they said, ‘We will thank God for it,’ and they
had a day and called it Thanksgiving," said Dan, who liked the
story of the brave men who suffered so nobly for their faith.

"Good! I didn’t think you would remember any thing but natural
history," and Mr. Bhaer tapped gently on the table as applause for
his pupil.

Dan looked pleased; and Mrs. Jo said to her son, "Now do you
understand about it, Robby?"

"No, I don’t. I thought pil-grins were a sort of big bird that lived on
rocks, and I saw pictures of them in Demi’s book."

"He means penguins. Oh, isn’t he a little goosey!" and Demi laid
back in his chair and laughed aloud.

"Don’t laugh at him, but tell him all about it if you can," said Mrs.
Bhaer, consoling Rob with more cranberry sauce for the general
smile that went round the table at his mistake.

"Well, I will;" and, after a pause to collect his ideas, Demi
delivered the following sketch of the Pilgrim Fathers, which would
have made even those grave gentlemen smile if they could have
heard it.

"You see, Rob, some of the people in England didn’t like the king,
or something, so they got into ships and sailed away to this
country. It was all full of Indians, and bears, and wild creatures,
and they lived in forts, and had a dreadful time."

"The bears?" asked Robby, with interest.

"No; the Pilgrims, because the Indians troubled them. They hadn’t
enough to eat, and they went to church with guns, and ever so
many died, and they got out of the ships on a rock, and it’s called
Plymouth Rock, and Aunt Jo saw it and touched it. The Pilgrims
killed all the Indians, and got rich; and hung the witches, and were
very good; and some of the greatest great-grandpas came in the
ships. One was the Mayflower; and they made Thanksgiving, and
we have it always, and I like it. Some more turkey, please."

"I think Demi will be an historian, there is such order and
clearness in his account of events;" and Uncle Fritz’s eyes laughed
at Aunt Jo, as he helped the descendant of the Pilgrims to his third
bit of turkey.

"I thought you must eat as much as ever you could on
Thanksgiving. But Franz says you mustn’t even then;" and Stuffy
looked as if he had received bad news.

"Franz is right, so mind your knife and fork, and be moderate, or
else you won’t be able to help in the surprise by and by," said Mrs.
Jo.

"I’ll be careful; but everybody does eat lots, and I like it better than
being moderate," said Stuffy, who leaned to the popular belief that
Thanksgiving must be kept by coming as near apoplexy as
possible, and escaping with merely a fit of indigestion or a
headache.

"Now, my ‘pilgrims’ amuse yourselves quietly till tea-time, for you
will have enough excitement this evening," said Mrs. Jo, as they
rose from the table after a protracted sitting, finished by drinking
every one’s health in cider.

"I think I will take the whole flock for a drive, it is so pleasant;
then you can rest, my dear, or you will be worn out this evening,"
added Mr. Bhaer; and as soon as coats and hats could be put on,
the great omnibus was packed full, and away they went for a long
gay drive, leaving Mrs. Jo to rest and finish sundry small affairs in
peace.

An early and light tea was followed by more brushing of hair and
washing of hands; then the flock waited impatiently for the
company to come. Only the family was expected; for these small
revels were strictly domestic, and such being the case, sorrow was
not allowed to sadden the present festival. All came; Mr. and Mrs.
March, with Aunt Meg, so sweet and lovely, in spite of her black
dress and the little widow’s cap that encircled her tranquil face.
Uncle Teddy and Aunt Amy, with the Princess looking more
fairy-like than ever, in a sky-blue gown, and a great bouquet of
hot-house flowers, which she divided among the boys, sticking one
in each button-hole, making them feel peculiarly elegant and
festive. One strange face appeared, and Uncle Teddy led the
unknown gentleman up to the Bhaers, saying

"This is Mr. Hyde; he has been inquiring about Dan, and I ventured
to bring him to-night, that he might see how much the boy has
improved."

The Bhaers received him cordially, for Dan’s sake, pleased that the
lad had been remembered. But, after a few minutes’ chat, they
were glad to know Mr. Hyde for his own sake, so genial, simple,
and interesting was he. It was pleasant to see the boy’s face light up
when he caught sight of his friend; pleasanter still to see Mr.
Hyde’s surprise and satisfaction in Dan’s improved manners and
appearance, and pleasantest of all to watch the two sit talking in a
corner, forgetting the differences of age, culture, and position, in
the one subject which interested both, as man and boy compared
notes, and told the story of their summer life.

"The performance must begin soon, or the actors will go to sleep,"
said Mrs. Jo, when the first greetings were over.

So every one went into the school-room, and took seats before a
curtain made of two bed-covers. The children had already
vanished; but stifled laughter, and funny little exclamations from
behind the curtain, betrayed their whereabouts. The entertainment
began with a spirited exhibition of gymnastics, led by Franz. The
six elder lads, in blue trousers and red shirts, made a fine display
of muscle with dumb-bells, clubs, and weights, keeping time to the
music of the piano, played by Mrs. Jo behind the scenes. Dan was
so energetic in this exercise, that there was some danger of his
knocking down his neighbors, like so many nine-pins, or sending
his bean-bags whizzing among the audience; for he was excited by
Mr. Hyde’s presence, and a burning desire to do honor to his
teachers.

"A fine, strong lad. If I go on my trip to South America, in a year
or two, I shall be tempted to ask you to lend him to me, Mr.
Bhaer," said Mr. Hyde, whose interest in Dan was much increased
by the report he had just heard of him.

"You shall have him, and welcome, though we shall miss our
young Hercules very much. It would do him a world of good, and I
am sure he would serve his friend faithfully."

Dan heard both question and answer, and his heart leaped with joy
at the thought of travelling in a new country with Mr. Hyde, and
swelled with gratitude for the kindly commendation which
rewarded his efforts to be all these friends desired to see him.

After the gymnastics, Demi and Tommy spoke the old school
dialogue, "Money makes the mare go." Demi did very well, but
Tommy was capital as the old farmer; for he imitated Silas in a
way that convulsed the audience, and caused Silas himself to laugh
so hard that Asia had to slap him on the back, as they stood in the
hall enjoying the fun immensely.

Then Emil, who had got his breath by this time, gave them a
sea-song in costume, with a great deal about "stormy winds," "lee
shores," and a rousing chorus of "Luff, boys, luff," which made the
room ring; after which Ned performed a funny Chinese dance, and
hopped about like a large frog in a pagoda hat. As this was the only
public exhibition ever held at Plumfield, a few exercises in
lightning-arithmetic, spelling, and reading were given. Jack quite
amazed the public by his rapid calculations on the blackboard.
Tommy won in the spelling match, and Demi read a little French
fable so well that Uncle Teddy was charmed.

"Where are the other children?" asked every one as the curtain fell,
and none of the little ones appeared.

"Oh, that is the surprise. It’s so lovely, I pity you because you don’t
know it," said Demi, who had gone to get his mother’s kiss, and
stayed by her to explain the mystery when it should be revealed.

Goldilocks had been carried off by Aunt Jo, to the great
amazement of her papa, who quite outdid Mr. Bhaer in acting
wonder, suspense, and wild impatience to know "what was going
to happen."

At last, after much rustling, hammering, and very audible
directions from the stage manager, the curtain rose to soft music,
and Bess was discovered sitting on a stool beside a brown paper
fire-place. A dearer little Cinderella was never seen; for the gray
gown was very ragged, the tiny shoes all worn, the face so pretty
under the bright hair, and the attitude so dejected, it brought tears,
as well as smiles, to the fond eyes looking at the baby actress. She
sat quite still, till a voice whispered, "Now!" then she sighed a
funny little sigh, and said, "Oh I wish I tood go to the ball!" so
naturally, that her father clapped frantically, and her mother called
out, "Little darling!" These highly improper expressions of feeling
caused Cinderella to forget herself, and shake her head at them,
saying, reprovingly, "You mustn’t ‘peak to me."

Silence instantly prevailed, and three taps were heard on the wall.
Cinderella looked alarmed, but before she could remember to say,
"What is dat?" the back of the brown paper fire-place opened like a
door, and, with some difficulty, the fairy godmother got herself
and her pointed hat through. It was Nan, in a red cloak, a cap, and
a wand, which she waved as she said decidedly,

"You shall go to the ball, my dear."

"Now you must pull and show my pretty dress," returned
Cinderella, tugging at her brown gown.

"No, no; you must say, ‘How can I go in my rags?’ " said the
godmother in her own voice.

"Oh yes, so I mus’;" and the Princess said it, quite undisturbed by
her forgetfulness.

"I change your rags into a splendid dress, because you are good,"
said the godmother in her stage tones; and deliberately
unbuttoning the brown pinafore, she displayed a gorgeous sight.

The little Princess really was pretty enough to turn the heads of
any number of small princes, for her mamma had dressed her like
a tiny court lady, in a rosy silk train with satin under-skirt, and bits
of bouquets here and there, quite lovely to behold. The godmother
put a crown, with pink and white feathers drooping from it, on her
head, and gave her a pair of silver paper slippers, which she put
on, and then stood up, lifting her skirts to show them to the
audience, saying, with pride, "My dlass ones, ain’t they pitty?"

She was so charmed with them, that she was with difficulty
recalled to her part, and made to say

"But I have no toach, Dodmother."

"Behold it!" and Nan waved her wand with such a flourish, that
she nearly knocked off the crown of the Princess.

Then appeared the grand triumph of the piece. First, a rope was
seen to flap on the floor, to tighten with a twitch as Emil’s voice
was heard to say, "Heave, ahoy!" and Silas’s gruff one to reply,
"Stiddy, now, stiddy!" A shout of laughter followed, for four large
gray rats appeared, rather shaky as to their legs, and queer as to
their tails, but quite fine about the head, where black beads shone
in the most lifelike manner. They drew, or were intended to appear
as if they did, a magnificent coach made of half the mammoth
pumpkin, mounted on the wheels of Teddy’s wagon, painted
yellow to match the gay carriage. Perched on a seat in front sat a
jolly little coachman in a white cotton-wool wig, cocked hat,
scarlet breeches, and laced coat, who cracked a long whip and
jerked the red reins so energetically, that the gray steeds reared
finely. It was Teddy, and he beamed upon the company so affably
that they gave him a round all to himself; and Uncle Laurie said,
"If I could find as sober a coachman as that one, I would engage
him on the spot." The coach stopped, the godmother lifted in the
Princess, and she was trundled away in state, kissing her hand to
the public, with her glass shoes sticking up in front, and her pink
train sweeping the ground behind, for, elegant as the coach was, I
regret to say that her Highness was rather a tight fit.

The next scene was the ball, and here Nan and Daisy appeared as
gay as peacocks in all sorts of finery. Nan was especially good as
the proud sister, and crushed many imaginary ladies as she swept
about the palace-hall. The Prince, in solitary state upon a
somewhat unsteady throne, sat gazing about him from under an
imposing crown, as he played with his sword and admired the
rosettes in his shoes. When Cinderella came in he jumped up, and
exclaimed, with more warmth than elegance,

"My gracious! who is that?" and immediately led the lady out to
dance, while the sisters scowled and turned up their noses in the
corner.

The stately jig executed by the little couple was very pretty, for the
childish faces were so earnest, the costumes so gay, and the steps
so peculiar, that they looked like the dainty quaint figures painted
on a Watteau fan. The Princess’s train was very much in her way,
and the sword of Prince Rob nearly tripped him up several times.
But they overcame these obstacles remarkably well, and finished
the dance with much grace and spirit, considering that neither
knew what the other was about.

"Drop your shoe," whispered Mrs. Jo’s voice as the lady was about
to sit down.

"Oh, I fordot!" and, taking off one of the silvery slippers,
Cinderella planted it carefully in the middle of the stage, said to
Rob, "Now you must try and tatch me," and ran away, while the
Prince, picking up the shoe, obediently trotted after her.

The third scene, as everybody knows, is where the herald comes to
try on the shoe. Teddy, still in coachman’s dress, came in blowing
a tin fish-horn melodiously, and the proud sisters each tried to put
on the slipper. Nan insisted on playing cut off her toe with a
carving-knife, and performed that operation so well that the herald
was alarmed, and begged her to be "welly keerful." Cinderella then
was called, and came in with the pinafore half on, slipped her foot
into the slipper, and announced, with satisfaction,

"I am the Pinsiss."

Daisy wept, and begged pardon; but Nan, who liked tragedy,
improved upon the story, and fell in a fainting-fit upon the floor,
where she remained comfortably enjoying the rest of the play. It
was not long, for the Prince ran in, dropped upon his knees, and
kissed the hand of Goldilocks with great ardor, while the herald
blew a blast that nearly deafened the audience. The curtain had no
chance to fall, for the Princess ran off the stage to her father,
crying, "Didn’t I do well?" while the Prince and herald had a
fencing-match with the tin horn and wooden sword.

"It was beautiful!" said every one; and, when the raptures had a
little subsided, Nat came out with his violin in his hand.

"Hush! hush!" cried all the children, and silence followed, for
something in the boy’s bashful manner and appealing eyes make
every one listen kindly.

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

"You composed that."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What magic did you use, Jo?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Summer days are over,

Summer work is done;

Harvests have been gathered

Gayly one by one.

Now the feast is eaten,

Finished is the play;

But one rite remains for

Our Thanksgiving-day.

"Best of all the harvest

In the dear God’s sight,

Are the happy children

In the home to-night;

And we come to offer

Thanks where thanks are due,

With grateful hearts and voices,

Father, mother, unto you."

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

 

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