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Chapter 24 Harvest Time

  • For a year Jo and her Professor worked and waited, hoped and loved, me_ccasionally, and wrote such voluminous letters that the rise in the price o_aper was accounted for, Laurie said. The second year began rather soberly, for their prospects did not brighten, and Aunt March died suddenly. But whe_heir first sorrow was over—for they loved the old lady in spite of her shar_ongue—they found they had cause for rejoicing, for she had left Plumfield t_o, which made all sorts of joyful things possible.
  • "It's a fine old place, and will bring a handsome sum, for of course yo_ntend to sell it," said Laurie, as they were all talking the matter over som_eeks later.
  • "No, I don't," was Jo's decided answer, as she petted the fat poodle, whom sh_ad adopted, out of respect to his former mistress.
  • "You don't mean to live there?"
  • "Yes, I do."
  • "But, my dear girl, it's an immense house, and will take a power of money t_eep it in order. The garden and orchard alone need two or three men, an_arming isn't in Bhaer's line, I take it."
  • "He'll try his hand at it there, if I propose it."
  • "And you expect to live on the produce of the place? Well, that sound_aradisiacal, but you'll find it desperate hard work."
  • "The crop we are going to raise is a profitable one," and Jo laughed.
  • "Of what is this fine crop to consist, ma'am?"
  • "Boys. I want to open a school for little lads—a good, happy, homelike school, with me to take care of them and Fritz to teach them."
  • "That's a truly Joian plan for you! Isn't that just like her?" cried Laurie, appealing to the family, who looked as much surprised as he.
  • "I like it," said Mrs. March decidedly.
  • "So do I," added her husband, who welcomed the thought of a chance for tryin_he Socratic method of education on modern youth.
  • "It will be an immense care for Jo," said Meg, stroking the head of her on_ll-absorbing son.
  • "Jo can do it, and be happy in it. It's a splendid idea. Tell us all abou_t," cried Mr. Laurence, who had been longing to lend the lovers a hand, bu_new that they would refuse his help.
  • "I knew you'd stand by me, sir. Amy does too—I see it in her eyes, though sh_rudently waits to turn it over in her mind before she speaks. Now, my dea_eople," continued Jo earnestly, "just understand that this isn't a new ide_f mine, but a long cherished plan. Before my Fritz came, I used to think how, when I'd made my fortune, and no one needed me at home, I'd hire a big house, and pick up some poor, forlorn little lads who hadn't any mothers, and tak_are of them, and make life jolly for them before it was too late. I see s_any going to ruin for want of help at the right minute, I love so to d_nything for them, I seem to feel their wants, and sympathize with thei_roubles, and oh, I should so like to be a mother to them!"
  • Mrs. March held out her hand to Jo, who took it, smiling, with tears in he_yes, and went on in the old enthusiastic way, which they had not seen for _ong while.
  • "I told my plan to Fritz once, and he said it was just what he would like, an_greed to try it when we got rich. Bless his dear heart, he's been doing i_ll his life—helping poor boys, I mean, not getting rich, that he'll never be.
  • Money doesn't stay in his pocket long enough to lay up any. But now, thanks t_y good old aunt, who loved me better than I ever deserved, I'm rich, at leas_ feel so, and we can live at Plumfield perfectly well, if we have _lourishing school. It's just the place for boys, the house is big, and th_urniture strong and plain. There's plenty of room for dozens inside, an_plendid grounds outside. They could help in the garden and orchard. Such wor_s healthy, isn't it, sir? Then Fritz could train and teach in his own way, and Father will help him. I can feed and nurse and pet and scold them, an_other will be my stand-by. I've always longed for lots of boys, and never ha_nough, now I can fill the house full and revel in the little dears to m_eart's content. Think what luxury— Plumfield my own, and a wilderness of boy_o enjoy it with me."
  • As Jo waved her hands and gave a sigh of rapture, the family went off into _ale of merriment, and Mr. Laurence laughed till they thought he'd have a_poplectic fit.
  • "I don't see anything funny," she said gravely, when she could be heard.
  • "Nothing could be more natural and proper than for my Professor to open _chool, and for me to prefer to reside in my own estate."
  • "She is putting on airs already," said Laurie, who regarded the idea in th_ight of a capital joke. "But may I inquire how you intend to support th_stablishment? If all the pupils are little ragamuffins, I'm afraid your cro_on't be profitable in a worldly sense, Mrs. Bhaer."
  • "Now don't be a wet-blanket, Teddy. Of course I shall have rich pupils, also—perhaps begin with such altogether. Then, when I've got a start, I ca_ake in a ragamuffin or two, just for a relish. Rich people's children ofte_eed care and comfort, as well as poor. I've seen unfortunate little creature_eft to servants, or backward ones pushed forward, when it's real cruelty.
  • Some are naughty through mismanagment or neglect, and some lose their mothers.
  • Besides, the best have to get through the hobbledehoy age, and that's the ver_ime they need most patience and kindness. People laugh at them, and hustl_hem about, try to keep them out of sight, and expect them to turn all at onc_rom pretty children into fine young men. They don't complain much—pluck_ittle souls—but they feel it. I've been through something of it, and I kno_ll about it. I've a special interest in such young bears, and like to sho_hem that I see the warm, honest, well-meaning boys' hearts, in spite of th_lumsy arms and legs and the topsy-turvy heads. I've had experience, too, fo_aven't I brought up one boy to be a pride and honor to his family?"
  • "I'll testify that you tried to do it," said Laurie with a grateful look.
  • "And I've succeeded beyond my hopes, for here you are, a steady, sensibl_usinessman, doing heaps of good with your money, and laying up the blessing_f the poor, instead of dollars. But you are not merely a businessman, yo_ove good and beautiful things, enjoy them yourself, and let others go halves, as you always did in the old times. I am proud of you, Teddy, for you ge_etter every year, and everyone feels it, though you won't let them say so.
  • Yes, and when I have my flock, I'll just point to you, and say 'There's you_odel, my lads'."
  • Poor Laurie didn't know where to look, for, man though he was, something o_he old bashfulness came over him as this burst of praise made all faces tur_pprovingly upon him.
  • "I say, Jo, that's rather too much," he began, just in his old boyish way.
  • "You have all done more for me than I can ever thank you for, except by doin_y best not to disappoint you. You have rather cast me off lately, Jo, bu_'ve had the best of help, nevertheless. So, if I've got on at all, you ma_hank these two for it," and he laid one hand gently on his grandfather'_ead, and the other on Amy's golden one, for the three were never far apart.
  • "I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world!"
  • burst out Jo, who was in an unusually up-lifted frame of mind just then. "Whe_ have one of my own, I hope it will be as happy as the three I know and lov_he best. If John and my Fritz were only here, it would be quite a littl_eaven on earth," she added more quietly. And that night when she went to he_oom after a blissful evening of family counsels, hopes, and plans, her hear_as so full of happiness that she could only calm it by kneeling beside th_mpty bed always near her own, and thinking tender thoughts of Beth.
  • It was a very astonishing year altogether, for things seemed to happen in a_nusually rapid and delightful manner. Almost before she knew where she was, Jo found herself married and settled at Plumfield. Then a family of six o_even boys sprung up like mushrooms, and flourished surprisingly, poor boys a_ell as rich, for Mr. Laurence was continually finding some touching case o_estitution, and begging the Bhaers to take pity on the child, and he woul_ladly pay a trifle for its support. In this way, the sly old gentleman go_ound proud Jo, and furnished her with the style of boy in which she mos_elighted.
  • Of course it was uphill work at first, and Jo made queer mistakes, but th_ise Professor steered her safely into calmer waters, and the most rampan_agamuffin was conquered in the end. How Jo did enjoy her 'wilderness o_oys', and how poor, dear Aunt March would have lamented had she been there t_ee the sacred precincts of prim, well-ordered Plumfield overrun with Toms, Dicks, and Harrys! There was a sort of poetic justice about it, after all, fo_he old lady had been the terror of the boys for miles around, and now th_xiles feasted freely on forbidden plums, kicked up the gravel with profan_oots unreproved, and played cricket in the big field where the irritable 'co_ith a crumpled horn' used to invite rash youths to come and be tossed. I_ecame a sort of boys' paradise, and Laurie suggested that it should be calle_he 'Bhaer-garten', as a compliment to its master and appropriate to it_nhabitants.
  • It never was a fashionable school, and the Professor did not lay up a fortune, but it was just what Jo intended it to be—'a happy, homelike place for boys, who needed teaching, care, and kindness'. Every room in the big house was soo_ull. Every little plot in the garden soon had its owner. A regular menageri_ppeared in barn and shed, for pet animals were allowed. And three times _ay, Jo smiled at her Fritz from the head of a long table lined on either sid_ith rows of happy young faces, which all turned to her with affectionat_yes, confiding words, and grateful hearts, full of love for 'Mother Bhaer'.
  • She had boys enough now, and did not tire of them, though they were no_ngels, by any means, and some of them caused both Professor and Professori_uch trouble and anxiety. But her faith in the good spot which exists in th_eart of the naughtiest, sauciest, most tantalizing little ragamuffin gave he_atience, skill, and in time success, for no mortal boy could hold out lon_ith Father Bhaer shining on him as benevolently as the sun, and Mother Bhae_orgiving him seventy times seven. Very precious to Jo was the friendship o_he lads, their penitent sniffs and whispers after wrongdoing, their droll o_ouching little confidences, their pleasant enthusiasms, hopes, and plans, even their misfortunes, for they only endeared them to her all the more. Ther_ere slow boys and bashful boys, feeble boys and riotous boys, boys tha_isped and boys that stuttered, one or two lame ones, and a merry littl_uadroon, who could not be taken in elsewhere, but who was welcome to the
  • 'Bhaer-garten', though some people predicted that his admission would ruin th_chool.
  • Yes, Jo was a very happy woman there, in spite of hard work, much anxiety, an_ perpetual racket. She enjoyed it heartily and found the applause of her boy_ore satisfying than any praise of the world, for now she told no storie_xcept to her flock of enthusiastic believers and admirers. As the years wen_n, two little lads of her own came to increase her happiness—Rob, named fo_randpa, and Teddy, a happy-go-lucky baby, who seemed to have inherited hi_apa's sunshiny temper as well as his mother's lively spirit. How they eve_rew up alive in that whirlpool of boys was a mystery to their grandma an_unts, but they flourished like dandelions in spring, and their rough nurse_oved and served them well.
  • There were a great many holidays at Plumfield, and one of the most delightfu_as the yearly apple-picking. For then the Marches, Laurences, Brookes an_haers turned out in full force and made a day of it. Five years after Jo'_edding, one of these fruitful festivals occurred, a mellow October day, whe_he air was full of an exhilarating freshness which made the spirits rise an_he blood dance healthily in the veins. The old orchard wore its holida_ttire. Goldenrod and asters fringed the mossy walls. Grasshoppers skippe_riskly in the sere grass, and crickets chirped like fairy pipers at a feast.
  • Squirrels were busy with their small harvesting. Birds twittered their adieu_rom the alders in the lane, and every tree stood ready to send down it_hower of red or yellow apples at the first shake. Everybody was there.
  • Everybody laughed and sang, climbed up and tumbled down. Everybody declare_hat there never had been such a perfect day or such a jolly set to enjoy it, and everyone gave themselves up to the simple pleasures of the hour as freel_s if there were no such things as care or sorrow in the world.
  • Mr. March strolled placidly about, quoting Tusser, Cowley, and Columella t_r. Laurence, while enjoying…
  • The gentle apple's winey juice.
  • The Professor charged up and down the green aisles like a stout Teutoni_night, with a pole for a lance, leading on the boys, who made a hook an_adder company of themselves, and performed wonders in the way of ground an_ofty tumbling. Laurie devoted himself to the little ones, rode his smal_aughter in a bushel-basket, took Daisy up among the bird's nests, and kep_dventurous Rob from breaking his neck. Mrs. March and Meg sat among the appl_iles like a pair of Pomonas, sorting the contributions that kept pouring in, while Amy with a beautiful motherly expression in her face sketched th_arious groups, and watched over one pale lad, who sat adoring her with hi_ittle crutch beside him.
  • Jo was in her element that day, and rushed about, with her gown pinned up, an_er hat anywhere but on her head, and her baby tucked under her arm, ready fo_ny lively adventure which might turn up. Little Teddy bore a charmed life, for nothing ever happened to him, and Jo never felt any anxiety when he wa_hisked up into a tree by one lad, galloped off on the back of another, o_upplied with sour russets by his indulgent papa, who labored under th_ermanic delusion that babies could digest anything, from pickled cabbage t_uttons, nails, and their own small shoes. She knew that little Ted would tur_p again in time, safe and rosy, dirty and serene, and she always received hi_ack with a hearty welcome, for Jo loved her babies tenderly.
  • At four o'clock a lull took place, and baskets remained empty, while the appl_ickers rested and compared rents and bruises. Then Jo and Meg, with _etachment of the bigger boys, set forth the supper on the grass, for an out- of-door tea was always the crowning joy of the day. The land literally flowe_ith milk and honey on such occasions, for the lads were not required to si_t table, but allowed to partake of refreshment as they liked—freedom bein_he sauce best beloved by the boyish soul. They availed themselves of the rar_rivilege to the fullest extent, for some tried the pleasing experiment o_rinking milk while standing on their heads, others lent a charm to leapfro_y eating pie in the pauses of the game, cookies were sown broadcast over th_ield, and apple turnovers roosted in the trees like a new style of bird. Th_ittle girls had a private tea party, and Ted roved among the edibles at hi_wn sweet will.
  • When no one could eat any more, the Professor proposed the first regula_oast, which was always drunk at such times—"Aunt March, God bless her!" _oast heartily given by the good man, who never forgot how much he owed her, and quietly drunk by the boys, who had been taught to keep her memory green.
  • "Now, Grandma's sixtieth birthday! Long life to her, with three times three!"
  • That was given with a will, as you may well believe, and the cheering onc_egun, it was hard to stop it. Everybody's health was proposed, from Mr.
  • Laurence, who was considered their special patron, to the astonished guine_ig, who had strayed from its proper sphere in search of its young master.
  • Demi, as the oldest grandchild, then presented the queen of the day wit_arious gifts, so numerous that they were transported to the festive scene i_ wheelbarrow. Funny presents, some of them, but what would have been defect_o other eyes were ornaments to Grandma's—for the children's gifts were al_heir own. Every stitch Daisy's patient little fingers had put into th_andkerchiefs she hemmed was better than embroidery to Mrs. March. Demi'_iracle of mechanical skill, though the cover wouldn't shut, Rob's footstoo_ad a wiggle in its uneven legs that she declared was soothing, and no page o_he costly book Amy's child gave her was so fair as that on which appeared i_ipsy capitals, the words—"To dear Grandma, from her little Beth."
  • During the ceremony the boys had mysteriously disappeared, and when Mrs. Marc_ad tried to thank her children, and broken down, while Teddy wiped her eye_n his pinafore, the Professor suddenly began to sing. Then, from above him, voice after voice took up the words, and from tree to tree echoed the music o_he unseen choir, as the boys sang with all their hearts the little song tha_o had written, Laurie set to music, and the Professor trained his lads t_ive with the best effect. This was something altogether new, and it proved _rand success, for Mrs. March couldn't get over her surprise, and insisted o_haking hands with every one of the featherless birds, from tall Franz an_mil to the little quadroon, who had the sweetest voice of all.
  • After this, the boys dispersed for a final lark, leaving Mrs. March and he_aughters under the festival tree.
  • "I don't think I ever ought to call myself 'unlucky Jo' again, when m_reatest wish has been so beautifully gratified," said Mrs. Bhaer, takin_eddy's little fist out of the milk pitcher, in which he was rapturousl_hurning.
  • "And yet your life is very different from the one you pictured so long ago. D_ou remember our castles in the air?" asked Amy, smiling as she watched Lauri_nd John playing cricket with the boys.
  • "Dear fellows! It does my heart good to see them forget business and froli_or a day," answered Jo, who now spoke in a maternal way of all mankind. "Yes, I remember, but the life I wanted then seems selfish, lonely, and cold to m_ow. I haven't given up the hope that I may write a good book yet, but I ca_ait, and I'm sure it will be all the better for such experiences an_llustrations as these," and Jo pointed from the lively lads in the distanc_o her father, leaning on the Professor's arm, as they walked to and fro i_he sunshine, deep in one of the conversations which both enjoyed so much, an_hen to her mother, sitting enthroned among her daughters, with their childre_n her lap and at her feet, as if all found help and happiness in the fac_hich never could grow old to them.
  • "My castle was the most nearly realized of all. I asked for splendid things, to be sure, but in my heart I knew I should be satisfied, if I had a littl_ome, and John, and some dear children like these. I've got them all, than_od, and am the happiest woman in the world," and Meg laid her hand on he_all boy's head, with a face full of tender and devout content.
  • "My castle is very different from what I planned, but I would not alter it, though, like Jo, I don't relinquish all my artistic hopes, or confine mysel_o helping others fulfill their dreams of beauty. I've begun to model a figur_f baby, and Laurie says it is the best thing I've ever done. I think so, myself, and mean to do it in marble, so that, whatever happens, I may at leas_eep the image of my little angel."
  • As Amy spoke, a great tear dropped on the golden hair of the sleeping child i_er arms, for her one well-beloved daughter was a frail little creature an_he dread of losing her was the shadow over Amy's sunshine. This cross wa_oing much for both father and mother, for one love and sorrow bound the_losely together. Amy's nature was growing sweeter, deeper, and more tender.
  • Laurie was growing more serious, strong, and firm, and both were learning tha_eauty, youth, good fortune, even love itself, cannot keep care and pain, los_nd sorrow, from the most blessed for …
  • > Into each life some rain must fall, > Some days must be dark and sad and dreary.
  • "She is growing better, I am sure of it, my dear. Don't despond, but hope an_eep happy," said Mrs. March, as tenderhearted Daisy stooped from her knee t_ay her rosy cheek against her little cousin's pale one.
  • "I never ought to, while I have you to cheer me up, Marmee, and Laurie to tak_ore than half of every burden," replied Amy warmly. "He never lets me see hi_nxiety, but is so sweet and patient with me, so devoted to Beth, and such _tay and comfort to me always that I can't love him enough. So, in spite of m_ne cross, I can say with Meg, 'Thank God, I'm a happy woman.'"
  • "There's no need for me to say it, for everyone can see that I'm far happie_han I deserve," added Jo, glancing from her good husband to her chubb_hildren, tumbling on the grass beside her. "Fritz is getting gray and stout.
  • I'm growing as thin as a shadow, and am thirty. We never shall be rich, an_lumfield may burn up any night, for that incorrigible Tommy Bangs will smok_weet-fern cigars under the bed-clothes, though he's set himself afire thre_imes already. But in spite of these unromantic facts, I have nothing t_omplain of, and never was so jolly in my life. Excuse the remark, but livin_mong boys, I can't help using their expressions now and then."
  • "Yes, Jo, I think your harvest will be a good one," began Mrs. March, frightening away a big black cricket that was staring Teddy out o_ountenance.
  • "Not half so good as yours, Mother. Here it is, and we never can thank yo_nough for the patient sowing and reaping you have done," cried Jo, with th_oving impetuosity which she never would outgrow.
  • "I hope there will be more wheat and fewer tares every year," said Amy softly.
  • "A large sheaf, but I know there's room in your heart for it, Marmee dear,"
  • added Meg's tender voice.
  • Touched to the heart, Mrs. March could only stretch out her arms, as if t_ather children and grandchildren to herself, and say, with face and voic_ull of motherly love, gratitude, and humility…
  • "Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greate_appiness than this!"