Chapter 3 – Miss Campbell

Louisa May Alcott2016年11月05日'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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While the travelers unpack their trunks, we will pick up, as briefly
as possible, the dropped stitches in the little romance we are

Rose’s life had been a very busy and quiet one for the four years
following the May day when she made her choice. Study, exercise,
housework, and many wholesome pleasures kept her a happy,
hearty creature, yearly growing in womanly graces, yet always
preserving the innocent freshness girls lose so soon when too early
set upon the world’s stage and given a part to play.

Not a remarkably gifted girl in any way, and far from perfect; full
of all manner of youthful whims and fancies; a little spoiled by
much love; rather apt to think all lives as safe and sweet as her
own; and, when want or pain appealed to her, the tender heart
overflowed with a remorseful charity which gave of its abundance
recklessly. Yet, with all her human imperfections, the upright
nature of the child kept her desires climbing toward the just and
pure and true, as flowers struggle to the light; and the woman’s
soul was budding beautifully under the green leaves behind the
little thorns.

At seventeen, Dr. Alec pronounced her ready for the voyage
around the world, which he considered a better finishing off than
any school could give her. But just then Aunt Peace began to fail
and soon slipped quietly away to rejoin the lover she had waited
for so long. Youth seemed to come back in a mysterious way to
touch the dead face with lost loveliness, and all the romance of her
past to gather around her memory. Unlike most aged women, her
friends were among the young, and at her funeral the grayheads
gave place to the band of loving girls who made the sweet old
maiden ready for her rest, bore her pall, and covered her grave
with the white flowers she had never worn.

When this was over poor Aunt Plenty seemed so lost without her
lifelong charge that Dr. Alec would not leave her, and Rose gladly
paid the debt she owed by the tender service which comforts
without words. But Aunt Plenty, having lived for others all her
days, soon rebelled against this willing sacrifice, soon found
strength in her own sincere piety, solace in cheerful occupation,
and amusement in nursing Aunt Myra, who was a capital patient,
as she never died and never got well.

So at last the moment came when, with free minds, the travelers
could set out, and on Rose’s eighteenth birthday, with Uncle Alec
and the faithful Phebe, she sailed away to see and study the big,
beautiful world which lies ready for us all if we only know how to
use and enjoy it.

Phebe was set to studying music in the best schools, and while she
trained her lovely voice with happy industry, Rose and her uncle
roamed about in the most delightful way till two years were gone
like a dream and those at home clamored for their return.

Back they came, and now the heiress must make ready to take her
place, for at twenty-one she came into possession of the fortune
she had been trying to learn how to use well. Great plans
fermented in her brain, for, though the heart was as generous as
ever, time had taught her prudence and observation shown her that
the wisest charity is that which helps the poor to help themselves.

Dr. Alec found it a little difficult to restrain the ardor of this young
philanthropist who wanted to begin at once to endow hospitals,
build homes, adopt children, and befriend all mankind.

"Take a little time to look about you and get your bearings, child.
The world you have been living in is a much simpler, honester one
than that you are now to enter. Test yourself a bit and see if the old
ways seem best after all, for you are old enough to decide, and
wise enough to discover, what is for your truest good, I hope," he
said, trying to feel ready to let the bird escape from under his wing
and make little flights alone.

"Now, Uncle, I’m very much afraid you are going to be
disappointed in me," answered Rose with unusual hesitation yet a
very strong desire visible in her eyes. "You like to have me quite
honest, and I’ve learned to tell you all my foolish thoughts so I’ll
speak out, and if you find my wish very wrong and silly, please say
so, for I don’t want you to cast me off entirely, though I am grown
up. You say, wait a little, test myself, and try if the old ways are
best. I should like to do that, and can I in a better way than leading
the life other girls lead? Just for a little while," she added, as her
uncle’s face grew grave.

He was disappointed, yet acknowledged that the desire was natural
and in a moment saw that a trial of this sort might have its
advantages. Nevertheless, he dreaded it, for he had intended to
choose her society carefully and try to keep her unspoiled by the
world as long as possible, like many another fond parent and
guardian. But the spirit of Eve is strong in all her daughters
forbidden fruit will look rosier to them than any in their own
orchards, and the temptation to take just one little bite proves
irresistible to the wisest. So Rose, looking out from the safe
seclusion of her girlhood into the woman’s kingdom which she was
about to take possession of, felt a sudden wish to try its pleasures
before assuming its responsibilities, and was too sincere to hide
the longing.

"Very well, my dear, try it if you like, only take care of your health
be temperate in your gaiety and don’t lose more than you gain, if
that is possible," he added under his breath, endeavoring to speak
cheerfully and not look anxious.

"I know it is foolish, but I do want to be a regular butterfly for a
little while and see what it is like. You know I couldn’t help seeing
a good deal of fashionable life abroad, though we were not in it,
and here at home the girls tell me about all sorts of pleasant things
that are to happen this winter, so if you won’t despise me very
much, I should like to try it."

"For how long?"

"Would three months be too long? New Year is a good time to take
a fresh start. Everyone is going to welcome me, so I must be gay in
spite of myself, unless I’m willing to seem very ungrateful and
morose," said Rose, glad to have so good a reason to offer for her
new experiment.

"You may like it so well that the three months may become years.
Pleasure is very sweet when we are young."

"Do you think it will intoxicate me?"

"We shall see, my dear."

"We shall!" And Rose marched away, looking as if she had taken a
pledge of some sort, and meant to keep it.

It was a great relief to the public mind when it became known that
Miss Campbell was really coming out at last, and invitations to
Aunt Plenty’s party were promptly accepted. Aunt Clara was much
disappointed about the grand ball she had planned, but Rose stood
firm, and the dear old lady had her way about everything.

The consequence was a delightfully informal gathering of friends
to welcome the travelers home. Just a good, old-fashioned,
hospitable housewarming, so simple, cordial, and genuine that
those who came to criticize remained to enjoy, and many owned
the charm they could neither describe nor imitate.

Much curiosity was felt about Phebe, and much gossip went on
behind fans that evening, for those who had known her years ago
found it hard to recognize the little housemaid in the handsome
young woman who bore herself with such quiet dignity and
charmed them all with her fine voice. "Cinderella has turned out a
princess," was the general verdict, and Rose enjoyed the little
sensation immensely, for she had had many battles to fight for her
Phebe since she came among them, and now her faith was

Miss Campbell herself was in great demand and did the honors so
prettily that even Miss Bliss forgave her for her sad neglect of
Worth, though she shook her head over the white gowns, just alike
except that Phebe wore crimson and Rose, blue trimmings.

The girls swarmed eagerly around their recovered friend, for Rose
had been a favorite before she went away and found her throne
waiting for her now. The young men privately pronounced Phebe
the handsomest "But then you know there’s neither family nor
money, so it’s no use." Phebe, therefore, was admired as one of the
ornamental properties belonging to the house and left respectfully

But bonny Rose was "all right," as these amiable youths expressed
it, and many a wistful eye followed the bright head as it flitted
about the rooms as if it were a second Golden Fleece to be won
with difficulty, for stalwart kinsmen hedged it round, and watchful
aunts kept guard.

Little wonder that the girl found her new world an enchanting one
and that her first sip of pleasure rather went to her head, for
everybody welcomed and smiled on her, flattered and praised,
whispered agreeable prophecies in her ear, and looked the
compliments and congratulations they dared not utter till she felt
as if she must have left her old self somewhere abroad and
suddenly become a new and wonderfully gifted being.

"It is very nice, Uncle, and I’m not sure I mayn’t want another three
months of it when the first are gone," she whispered to Dr. Alec as
he stood watching the dance she was leading with Charlie in the
long hall after supper.

"Steady, my lass, steady, and remember that you are not really a
butterfly but a mortal girl with a head that will ache tomorrow," he
answered, watching the flushed and smiling face before him.
"I almost wish there wasn’t any tomorrow, but that tonight would
last forever it is so pleasant, and everyone so kind," she said with a
little sigh of happiness as she gathered up her fleecy skirts like a
white bird pluming itself for flight.

"I’ll ask your opinion about that at two A.M.," began her uncle with
a warning nod.

"I’ll give it honestly," was all Rose had time to say before Charlie
swept her away into the particolored cloud before them.

"It’s no use, Alec train a girl as wisely as you choose, she will
break loose when the time comes and go in for pleasure as eagerly
as the most frivolous, for ”tis their nature to,’" said Uncle Mac,
keeping time to the music as if he would not mind "going in" for a
bit of pleasure himself.

"My girl shall taste and try, but unless I’m much mistaken, a little
bit of it will satisfy her. I want to see if she will stand the test,
because if not, all my work is a failure and I’d like to know it,"
answered the doctor with a hopeful smile on his lips but an
anxious look in his eyes.

"She will come out all right bless her heart! so let her sow her
innocent wild oats and enjoy herself till she is ready to settle down.
I wish all our young folks were likely to have as small a crop and
get through as safely as she will," added Uncle Mac with a shake
of the head as he glanced at some of the young men revolving
before him.

"Nothing amiss with your lads, I hope?"

"No, thank heaven! So far I’ve had little trouble with either, though
Mac is an odd stick and Steve a puppy. I don’t complain, for both
will outgrow that sort of thing and are good fellows at heart,
thanks to their mother. But Clara’s boy is in a bad way, and she
will spoil him as a man as she has as a boy if his father doesn’t

"I told brother Stephen all about him when I was in Calcutta last
year, and he wrote to the boy, but Clara has got no end of plans in
her head and so she insisted on keeping Charlie a year longer when
his father ordered him off to India," replied the doctor as they
walked away.

"It is too late to ‘order’ Charlie is a man now, and Stephen will find
he has been too easy with him all these years. Poor fellow, it has
been hard lines for him, and is likely to be harder, I fancy, unless
he comes home and straightens things out."

"He won’t do that if he can help it. He has lost all his energy living
in that climate and hates worry more than ever, so you can imagine
what an effort it would be to manage a foolish woman and a
headstrong boy. We must lend a hand, Mac, and do our best for
poor old Steve."

"The best we can do for the lad is to marry and settle him as soon
as possible."

"My dear fellow, he is only three and twenty," began the doctor, as
if the idea was preposterous. Then a sudden change came over him
as he added with a melancholy smile, "I forget how much one can
hope and suffer, even at twenty-three."

"And be all the better for, if bravely outlived," said Uncle Mac,
with his hand on his brother’s shoulder and the sincerest approval
in his voice. Then, kindly returning to the younger people, he went
on inquiringly, "You don’t incline to Clara’s view of a certain
matter, I fancy?"

"Decidedly not. My girl must have the best, and Clara’s training
would spoil an angel," answered Dr. Alec quickly.

"But we shall find it hard to let our little Rose go out of the family.
How would Archie do? He has been well brought up and is a
thoroughly excellent lad."

The brothers had retired to the study by this time and were alone,
yet Dr. Alec lowered his voice as he said with a tender sort of
anxiety pleasant to see: "You know I do not approve of cousins
marrying, so I’m in a quandary, Mac, for I love the child as if she
were my own and feel as if I could not give her up to any man
whom I did not know and trust entirely. It is of no use for us to
plan, for she must choose for herself yet I do wish we could keep
her among us and give one of our boys a wife worth having."

"We must, so never mind your theories but devote yourself to
testing our elder lads and making one of them a happy fellow. All
are heart-whole, I believe, and, though young still for this sort of
thing, we can be gently shaping matters for them, since no one
knows how soon the moment may come. My faith it is like living
in a powder mill to be among a lot of young folks nowadays! All
looks as calm as possible till a sudden spark produces an
explosion, and heaven only knows where we find ourselves after it
is over."

And Uncle Mac sat himself comfortably down to settle Rose’s fate
while the doctor paced the room, plucking at his beard and knitting
his brows as if he found it hard to see his way.

"Yes, Archie is a good fellow," he said, answering the question he
had ignored before. "An upright, steady, intelligent lad who will
make an excellent husband if he ever finds out that he has a heart.
I suppose I’m an old fool, but I do like a little more romance in a
young man than he seems to have more warmth and enthusiasm,
you know. Bless the boy! He might be forty instead of three or four
and twenty, he’s so sober, calm, and cool. I’m younger than he is,
and could go a-wooing like a Romeo if I had any heart to offer a

The doctor looked rather shamefaced as he spoke, and his brother
burst out laughing. "See here, Alec, it’s a pity so much romance
and excellence as yours should be lost, so why don’t you set these
young fellows an example and go a-wooing yourself? Jessie has
been wondering how you have managed to keep from falling in
love with Phebe all this time, and Clara is quite sure that you
waited only till she was safe under Aunt Plenty’s wing to offer
yourself in the good old-fashioned style."

"I!" And the doctor stood aghast at the mere idea, then he gave a
resigned sort of sigh and added like a martyr, "If those dear women
would let me alone, I’d thank them forever. Put the idea out of
their minds for heaven’s sake, Mac, or I shall be having that poor
girl flung at my head and her comfort destroyed. She is a fine
creature and I’m proud of her, but she deserves a better lot than to
be tied to an old fellow like me whose only merit is his fidelity."

"As you please, I was only joking," and Uncle Mac dropped the
subject with secret relief. The excellent man thought a good deal
of family and had been rather worried at the hints of the ladies.
After a moment’s silence he returned to a former topic, which was
rather a pet plan of his. "I don’t think you do Archie justice, Alec.
You don’t know him as well as I do, but you’ll find that he has
heart enough under his cool, quiet manner. I’ve grown very fond of
him, think highly of him, and don’t see how you could do better for
Rose than to give her to him."

"If she will go," said the doctor, smiling at his brother’s
businesslike way of disposing of the young people.

"She’ll do anything to please you," began Uncle Mac in perfect
good faith, for twenty-five years in the society of a very prosaic
wife had taken nearly all the romance out of him.

"It is of no use for us to plan, and I shall never interfere except to
advise, and if I were to choose one of the boys, I should incline to
my godson," answered the doctor gravely.

"What, my Ugly Duckling!" exclaimed Uncle Mac in great

"The Ugly Duckling turned out a swan, you remember. I’ve always
been fond of the boy because he’s so genuine and original. Crude
as a green apple now, but sound at the core, and only needs time to
ripen. I’m sure he’ll turn out a capital specimen of the Campbell

"Much obliged, Alec, but it will never do at all. He’s a good fellow,
and may do something to be proud of by and by, but he’s not the
mate for our Rose. She needs someone who can manage her
property when we are gone, and Archie is the man for that, depend
upon it."

"Confound the property!" cried Dr. Alec impetuously. "I want her
to be happy, and I don’t care how soon she gets rid of her money if
it is going to be a millstone round her neck. I declare to you, I
dreaded the thought of this time so much that I’ve kept her away as
long as I could and trembled whenever a young fellow joined us
while we were abroad. Had one or two narrow escapes, and now
I’m in for it, as you can see by tonight’s ‘success’ as Clara calls it.
Thank heaven I haven’t many daughters to look after!"

"Come, come, don’t be anxious take Archie and settle it right up
safely and happily. That’s my advice, and you’ll find it sound,"
replied the elder conspirator, like one having experience.

"I’ll think of it, but mind you, Mac, not a word of this to the sisters.
We are a couple of old fools to be matchmaking so soon but I see
what is before me and it’s a comfort to free my mind to someone."

"So it is. Depend on me not a breath even to Jane," answered
Uncle Mac, with a hearty shake and a sympathetic slap on the

"Why, what dark and awful secrets are going on here? Is it a
Freemason’s Lodge and those the mystic signs?" asked a gay voice
at the door; and there stood Rose, full of smiling wonder at the
sight of her two uncles hand in hand, whispering and nodding to
one another mysteriously.

They stared like schoolboys caught plotting mischief and looked
so guilty that she took pity on them, innocently imagining the
brothers were indulging in a little sentiment on this joyful
occasion, so she added quickly, as she beckoned, without crossing
the threshold, "Women not allowed, of course, but both of you
dear Odd Fellows are wanted, for Aunt Plenty begs we will have
an old-fashioned contra dance, and I’m to lead off with Uncle Mac.
I chose you, sir, because you do it in style, pigeon wings and all.
So, please come and Phebe is waiting for you, Uncle Alec. She is
rather shy you know, but will enjoy it with you to take care of her."

"Thank you, thank you!" cried both gentlemen, following with
great alacrity.

Unconscious, Rose enjoyed that Virginia reel immensely, for the
pigeon wings were superb, and her partner conducted her through
the convolutions of the dance without a fault, going down the
middle in his most gallant style. Landing safely at the bottom, she
stood aside to let him get his breath, for stout Uncle Mac was
bound to do or die on that occasion and would have danced his
pumps through without a murmur if she had desired it.

Leaning against the wall with his hair in his eyes, and a decidedly
bored expression of countenance, was Mac, Jr., who had been
surveying the gymnastics of his parent with respectful

"Come and take a turn, my lad. Rose is fresh as a daisy, but we old
fellows soon get enough of it, so you shall have my place," said his
father, wiping his face, which glowed like a cheerful peony.

"No, thank you, sir I can’t stand that sort of thing. I’ll race you
round the piazza with pleasure, Cousin, but his oven is too much
for me," was Mac’s uncivil reply as he backed toward the open
window, as if glad of an excuse to escape.

"Fragile creature, don’t stay on my account, I beg. I can’t leave my
guests for a moonlight run, even if I dared to take it on a frosty
night in a thin dress," said Rose, fanning herself and not a bit
ruffled by Mac’s refusal, for she knew his ways and they amused

"Not half so bad as all this dust, gas, heat, and noise. What do you
suppose lungs are made of?" demanded Mac, ready for a
discussion then and there.

"I used to know, but I’ve forgotten now. Been so busy with other
things that I’ve neglected the hobbies I used to ride five or six years
ago," she said, laughing.

"Ah, those were times worth having! Are you going in for much of
this sort of thing, Rose?" he asked with a disapproving glance at
the dancers.

"About three months of it, I think."

"Then good-bye till New Year." And Mac vanished behind the

"Rose, my dear, you really must take that fellow in hand before he
gets to be quite a bear. Since you have been gone he has lived in
his books and got on so finely that we have let him alone, though
his mother groans over his manners. Polish him up a bit, I beg of
you, for it is high time he mended his odd ways and did justice to
the fine gifts he hides behind them," said Uncle Mac, scandalized
at the bluntness of his son.

"I know my chestnut burr too well to mind his prickles. But others
do not, so I will take him in hand and make him a credit to his
family," answered Rose readily.

"Take Archie for your model he’s one of a thousand, and the girl
who gets him gets a prize, I do assure you," added Uncle Mac, who
found matchmaking to his taste and thought that closing remark a
deep one.

"Oh, me, how tired I am!" cried Rose, dropping into a chair as the
last carriage rolled away somewhere between one and two.

"What is your opinion now, Miss Campbell?" asked the doctor,
addressing her for the first time by the name which had been
uttered so often that night.

"My opinion is that Miss Campbell is likely to have a gay life if
she goes on as she has begun, and that she finds it very delightful
so far," answered the girl, with lips still smiling from their first
taste of what the world calls pleasure.


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