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Chapter 7 Consequences

  • Mrs. Chester's fair was so very elegant and select that it was considered _reat honor by the young ladies of the neighborhood to be invited to take _able, and everyone was much interested in the matter. Amy was asked, but J_as not, which was fortunate for all parties, as her elbows were decidedl_kimbo at this period of her life, and it took a good many hard knocks t_each her how to get on easily. The 'haughty, uninteresting creature' was le_everely alone, but Amy's talent and taste were duly complimented by the offe_f the art table, and she exerted herself to prepare and secure appropriat_nd valuable contributions to it.
  • Everything went on smoothly till the day before the fair opened, then ther_ccurred one of the little skirmishes which it is almost impossible to avoid, when some five-and-twenty women, old and young, with all their private pique_nd prejudices, try to work together.
  • May Chester was rather jealous of Amy because the latter was a greate_avorite than herself, and just at this time several trifling circumstance_ccurred to increase the feeling. Amy's dainty pen-and-ink work entirel_clipsed May's painted vases—that was one thorn. Then the all conquering Tudo_ad danced four times with Amy at a late party and only once with May—that wa_horn number two. But the chief grievance that rankled in her soul, and gav_n excuse for her unfriendly conduct, was a rumor which some obliging gossi_ad whispered to her, that the March girls had made fun of her at the Lambs'.
  • All the blame of this should have fallen upon Jo, for her naughty imitatio_ad been too lifelike to escape detection, and the frolicsome Lambs ha_ermitted the joke to escape. No hint of this had reached the culprits, however, and Amy's dismay can be imagined, when, the very evening before th_air, as she was putting the last touches to her pretty table, Mrs. Chester, who, of course, resented the supposed ridicule of her daughter, said, in _land tone, but with a cold look…
  • "I find, dear, that there is some feeling among the young ladies about m_iving this table to anyone but my girls. As this is the most prominent, an_ome say the most attractive table of all, and they are the chief getters-u_f the fair, it is thought best for them to take this place. I'm sorry, but _now you are too sincerely interested in the cause to mind a little persona_isappointment, and you shall have another table if you like."
  • Mrs. Chester fancied beforehand that it would be easy to deliver this littl_peech, but when the time came, she found it rather difficult to utter i_aturally, with Amy's unsuspicious eyes looking straight at her full o_urprise and trouble.
  • Amy felt that there was something behind this, but could not guess what, an_aid quietly, feeling hurt, and showing that she did, "Perhaps you had rathe_ took no table at all?"
  • "Now, my dear, don't have any ill feeling, I beg. It's merely a matter o_xpediency, you see, my girls will naturally take the lead, and this table i_onsidered their proper place. I think it very appropriate to you, and fee_ery grateful for your efforts to make it so pretty, but we must give up ou_rivate wishes, of course, and I will see that you have a good plac_lsewhere. Wouldn't you like the flower table? The little girls undertook it, but they are discouraged. You could make a charming thing of it, and th_lower table is always attractive you know."
  • "Especially to gentlemen," added May, with a look which enlightened Amy as t_ne cause of her sudden fall from favor. She colored angrily, but took n_ther notice of that girlish sarcasm, and answered with unexpected amiability…
  • "It shall be as you please, Mrs. Chester. I'll give up my place here at once, and attend to the flowers, if you like."
  • "You can put your own things on your own table, if you prefer," began May, feeling a little conscience-stricken, as she looked at the pretty racks, th_ainted shells, and quaint illuminations Amy had so carefully made and s_racefully arranged. She meant it kindly, but Amy mistook her meaning, an_aid quickly…
  • "Oh, certainly, if they are in your way," and sweeping her contributions int_er apron, pell-mell, she walked off, feeling that herself and her works o_rt had been insulted past forgiveness.
  • "Now she's mad. Oh, dear, I wish I hadn't asked you to speak, Mama," said May, looking disconsolately at the empty spaces on her table.
  • "Girls' quarrels are soon over," returned her mother, feeling a trifle ashame_f her own part in this one, as well she might.
  • The little girls hailed Amy and her treasures with delight, which cordia_eception somewhat soothed her perturbed spirit, and she fell to work, determined to succeed florally, if she could not artistically. But everythin_eemed against her. It was late, and she was tired. Everyone was too busy wit_heir own affairs to help her, and the little girls were only hindrances, fo_he dears fussed and chattered like so many magpies, making a great deal o_onfusion in their artless efforts to preserve the most perfect order. Th_vergreen arch wouldn't stay firm after she got it up, but wiggled an_hreatened to tumble down on her head when the hanging baskets were filled.
  • Her best tile got a splash of water, which left a sepia tear on the Cupid'_heek. She bruised her hands with hammering, and got cold working in a draft, which last affliction filled her with apprehensions for the morrow. Any gir_eader who has suffered like afflictions will sympathize with poor Amy an_ish her well through her task.
  • There was great indignation at home when she told her story that evening. He_other said it was a shame, but told her she had done right. Beth declared sh_ouldn't go to the fair at all, and Jo demanded why she didn't take all he_retty things and leave those mean people to get on without her.
  • "Because they are mean is no reason why I should be. I hate such things, an_hough I think I've a right to be hurt, I don't intend to show it. They wil_eel that more than angry speeches or huffy actions, won't they, Marmee?"
  • "That's the right spirit, my dear. A kiss for a blow is always best, thoug_t's not very easy to give it sometimes," said her mother, with the air of on_ho had learned the difference between preaching and practicing.
  • In spite of various very natural temptations to resent and retaliate, Am_dhered to her resolution all the next day, bent on conquering her enemy b_indness. She began well, thanks to a silent reminder that came to he_nexpectedly, but most opportunely. As she arranged her table that morning, while the little girls were in the anteroom filling the baskets, she took u_er pet production, a little book, the antique cover of which her father ha_ound among his treasures, and in which on leaves of vellum she ha_eautifully illuminated different texts. As she turned the pages rich i_ainty devices with very pardonable pride, her eye fell upon one verse tha_ade her stop and think. Framed in a brilliant scrollwork of scarlet, blue an_old, with little spirits of good will helping one another up and down amon_he thorns and flowers, were the words, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor a_hyself."
  • "I ought, but I don't," thought Amy, as her eye went from the bright page t_ay's discontented face behind the big vases, that could not hide th_acancies her pretty work had once filled. Amy stood a minute, turning th_eaves in her hand, reading on each some sweet rebuke for all heartburning_nd uncharitableness of spirit. Many wise and true sermons are preached u_very day by unconscious ministers in street, school, office, or home. Even _air table may become a pulpit, if it can offer the good and helpful word_hich are never out of season. Amy's conscience preached her a little sermo_rom that text, then and there, and she did what many of us do not always do, took the sermon to heart, and straightway put it in practice.
  • A group of girls were standing about May's table, admiring the pretty things, and talking over the change of saleswomen. They dropped their voices, but Am_new they were speaking of her, hearing one side of the story and judgin_ccordingly. It was not pleasant, but a better spirit had come over her, an_resently a chance offered for proving it. She heard May say sorrowfully…
  • "It's too bad, for there is no time to make other things, and I don't want t_ill up with odds and ends. The table was just complete then. Now it'_poiled."
  • "I dare say she'd put them back if you asked her," suggested someone.
  • "How could I after all the fuss?" began May, but she did not finish, for Amy'_oice came across the hall, saying pleasantly…
  • "You may have them, and welcome, without asking, if you want them. I was jus_hinking I'd offer to put them back, for they belong to your table rather tha_ine. Here they are, please take them, and forgive me if I was hasty i_arrying them away last night."
  • As she spoke, Amy returned her contribution, with a nod and a smile, an_urried away again, feeling that it was easier to do a friendly thing than i_as to stay and be thanked for it.
  • "Now, I call that lovely of her, don't you?" cried one girl.
  • May's answer was inaudible, but another young lady, whose temper was evidentl_ little soured by making lemonade, added, with a disagreeable laugh, "Ver_ovely, for she knew she wouldn't sell them at her own table."
  • Now, that was hard. When we make little sacrifices we like to have the_ppreciated, at least, and for a minute Amy was sorry she had done it, feelin_hat virtue was not always its own reward. But it is, as she presentl_iscovered, for her spirits began to rise, and her table to blossom under he_killful hands, the girls were very kind, and that one little act seemed t_ave cleared the atmosphere amazingly.
  • It was a very long day and a hard one for Amy, as she sat behind her table, often quite alone, for the little girls deserted very soon. Few cared to bu_lowers in summer, and her bouquets began to droop long before night.
  • The art table was the most attractive in the room. There was a crowd about i_ll day long, and the tenders were constantly flying to and fro with importan_aces and rattling money boxes. Amy often looked wistfully across, longing t_e there, where she felt at home and happy, instead of in a corner wit_othing to do. It might seem no hardship to some of us, but to a pretty, blithe young girl, it was not only tedious, but very trying, and the though_f Laurie and his friends made it a real martyrdom.
  • She did not go home till night, and then she looked so pale and quiet tha_hey knew the day had been a hard one, though she made no complaint, and di_ot even tell what she had done. Her mother gave her an extra cordial cup o_ea. Beth helped her dress, and made a charming little wreath for her hair, while Jo astonished her family by getting herself up with unusual care, an_inting darkly that the tables were about to be turned.
  • "Don't do anything rude, pray Jo; I won't have any fuss made, so let it al_ass and behave yourself," begged Amy, as she departed early, hoping to find _einforcement of flowers to refresh her poor little table.
  • "I merely intend to make myself entrancingly agreeable to every one I know, and to keep them in your corner as long as possible. Teddy and his boys wil_end a hand, and we'll have a good time yet." returned Jo, leaning over th_ate to watch for Laurie. Presently the familiar tramp was heard in the dusk, and she ran out to meet him.
  • "Is that my boy?"
  • "As sure as this is my girl!" and Laurie tucked her hand under his arm wit_he air of a man whose every wish was gratified.
  • "Oh, Teddy, such doings!" and Jo told Amy's wrongs with sisterly zeal.
  • "A flock of our fellows are going to drive over by-and-by, and I'll be hange_f I don't make them buy every flower she's got, and camp down before he_able afterward," said Laurie, espousing her cause with warmth.
  • "The flowers are not at all nice, Amy says, and the fresh ones may not arriv_n time. I don't wish to be unjust or suspicious, but I shouldn't wonder i_hey never came at all. When people do one mean thing they are very likely t_o another," observed Jo in a disgusted tone.
  • "Didn't Hayes give you the best out of our gardens? I told him to."
  • "I didn't know that, he forgot, I suppose, and, as your grandpa was poorly, _idn't like to worry him by asking, though I did want some."
  • "Now, Jo, how could you think there was any need of asking? They are just a_uch yours as mine. Don't we always go halves in everything?" began Laurie, i_he tone that always made Jo turn thorny.
  • "Gracious, I hope not! Half of some of your things wouldn't suit me at all.
  • But we mustn't stand philandering here. I've got to help Amy, so you go an_ake yourself splendid, and if you'll be so very kind as to let Hayes take _ew nice flowers up to the Hall, I'll bless you forever."
  • "Couldn't you do it now?" asked Laurie, so suggestively that Jo shut the gat_n his face with inhospitable haste, and called through the bars, "Go away, Teddy, I'm busy."
  • Thanks to the conspirators, the tables were turned that night, for Hayes sen_p a wilderness of flowers, with a loverly basket arranged in his best manne_or a centerpiece. Then the March family turned out en masse, and Jo exerte_erself to some purpose, for people not only came, but stayed, laughing at he_onsense, admiring Amy's taste, and apparently enjoying themselves very much.
  • Laurie and his friends gallantly threw themselves into the breach, bought u_he bouquets, encamped before the table, and made that corner the livelies_pot in the room. Amy was in her element now, and out of gratitude, if nothin_ore, was as spritely and gracious as possible, coming to the conclusion, about that time, that virtue was its own reward, after all.
  • Jo behaved herself with exemplary propriety, and when Amy was happil_urrounded by her guard of honor, Jo circulated about the Hall, picking u_arious bits of gossip, which enlightened her upon the subject of the Cheste_hange of base. She reproached herself for her share of the ill feeling an_esolved to exonerate Amy as soon as possible. She also discovered what Am_ad done about the things in the morning, and considered her a model o_agnanimity. As she passed the art table, she glanced over it for her sister'_hings, but saw no sign of them. "Tucked away out of sight, I dare say,"
  • thought Jo, who could forgive her own wrongs, but hotly resented any insul_ffered her family.
  • "Good evening, Miss Jo. How does Amy get on?" asked May with a conciliator_ir, for she wanted to show that she also could be generous.
  • "She has sold everything she had that was worth selling, and now she i_njoying herself. The flower table is always attractive, you know, 'especiall_o gentlemen'." Jo couldn't resist giving that little slap, but May took it s_eekly she regretted it a minute after, and fell to praising the great vases, which still remained unsold.
  • "Is Amy's illumination anywhere about? I took a fancy to buy that for Father,"
  • said Jo, very anxious to learn the fate of her sister's work.
  • "Everything of Amy's sold long ago. I took care that the right people sa_hem, and they made a nice little sum of money for us," returned May, who ha_vercome sundry small temptations, as well as Amy had, that day.
  • Much gratified, Jo rushed back to tell the good news, and Amy looked bot_ouched and surprised by the report of May's word and manner.
  • "Now, gentlemen, I want you to go and do your duty by the other tables a_enerously as you have by mine, especially the art table," she said, orderin_ut 'Teddy's own', as the girls called the college friends.
  • "'Charge, Chester, charge!' is the motto for that table, but do your duty lik_en, and you'll get your money's worth of art in every sense of the word,"
  • said the irrepressible Jo, as the devoted phalanx prepared to take the field.
  • "To hear is to obey, but March is fairer far than May," said little Parker, making a frantic effort to be both witty and tender, and getting promptl_uenched by Laurie, who said…
  • "Very well, my son, for a small boy!" and walked him off, with a paternal pa_n the head.
  • "Buy the vases," whispered Amy to Laurie, as a final heaping of coals of fir_n her enemy's head.
  • To May's great delight, Mr. Laurence not only bought the vases, but pervade_he hall with one under each arm. The other gentlemen speculated with equa_ashness in all sorts of frail trifles, and wandered helplessly abou_fterward, burdened with wax flowers, painted fans, filigree portfolios, an_ther useful and appropriate purchases.
  • Aunt Carrol was there, heard the story, looked pleased, and said something t_rs. March in a corner, which made the latter lady beam with satisfaction, an_atch Amy with a face full of mingled pride and anxiety, though she did no_etray the cause of her pleasure till several days later.
  • The fair was pronounced a success, and when May bade Amy goodnight, she di_ot gush as usual, but gave her an affectionate kiss, and a look which said
  • 'forgive and forget'. That satisfied Amy, and when she got home she found th_ases paraded on the parlor chimney piece with a great bouquet in each. "Th_eward of merit for a magnanimous March," as Laurie announced with a flourish.
  • "You've a deal more principle and generosity and nobleness of character than _ver gave you credit for, Amy. You've behaved sweetly, and I respect you wit_ll my heart," said Jo warmly, as they brushed their hair together late tha_ight.
  • "Yes, we all do, and love her for being so ready to forgive. It must have bee_readfully hard, after working so long and setting your heart on selling you_wn pretty things. I don't believe I could have done it as kindly as you did,"
  • added Beth from her pillow.
  • "Why, girls, you needn't praise me so. I only did as I'd be done by. You laug_t me when I say I want to be a lady, but I mean a true gentlewoman in min_nd manners, and I try to do it as far as I know how. I can't explain exactly, but I want to be above the little meannesses and follies and faults that spoi_o many women. I'm far from it now, but I do my best, and hope in time to b_hat Mother is."
  • Amy spoke earnestly, and Jo said, with a cordial hug, "I understand now wha_ou mean, and I'll never laugh at you again. You are getting on faster tha_ou think, and I'll take lessons of you in true politeness, for you've learne_he secret, I believe. Try away, deary, you'll get your reward some day, an_o one will be more delighted than I shall."
  • A week later Amy did get her reward, and poor Jo found it hard to b_elighted. A letter came from Aunt Carrol, and Mrs. March's face wa_lluminated to such a degree when she read it that Jo and Beth, who were wit_er, demanded what the glad tidings were.
  • "Aunt Carrol is going abroad next month, and wants… "
  • "Me to go with her!" burst in Jo, flying out of her chair in an uncontrollabl_apture.
  • "No, dear, not you. It's Amy."
  • "Oh, Mother! She's too young, it's my turn first. I've wanted it so long. I_ould do me so much good, and be so altogether splendid. I must go!"
  • "I'm afraid it's impossible, Jo. Aunt says Amy, decidedly, and it is not fo_s to dictate when she offers such a favor."
  • "It's always so. Amy has all the fun and I have all the work. It isn't fair, oh, it isn't fair!" cried Jo passionately.
  • "I'm afraid it's partly your own fault, dear. When Aunt spoke to me the othe_ay, she regretted your blunt manners and too independent spirit, and here sh_rites, as if quoting something you had said—'I planned at first to ask Jo, but as 'favors burden her', and she 'hates French', I think I won't venture t_nvite her. Amy is more docile, will make a good companion for Flo, an_eceive gratefully any help the trip may give her."
  • "Oh, my tongue, my abominable tongue! Why can't I learn to keep it quiet?"
  • groaned Jo, remembering words which had been her undoing. When she had hear_he explanation of the quoted phrases, Mrs. March said sorrowfully…
  • "I wish you could have gone, but there is no hope of it this time, so try t_ear it cheerfully, and don't sadden Amy's pleasure by reproaches or regrets."
  • "I'll try," said Jo, winking hard as she knelt down to pick up the basket sh_ad joyfully upset. "I'll take a leaf out of her book, and try not only t_eem glad, but to be so, and not grudge her one minute of happiness. But i_on't be easy, for it is a dreadful disappointment," and poor Jo bedewed th_ittle fat pincushion she held with several very bitter tears.
  • "Jo, dear, I'm very selfish, but I couldn't spare you, and I'm glad you ar_ot going quite yet," whispered Beth, embracing her, basket and all, with suc_ clinging touch and loving face that Jo felt comforted in spite of the shar_egret that made her want to box her own ears, and humbly beg Aunt Carrol t_urden her with this favor, and see how gratefully she would bear it.
  • By the time Amy came in, Jo was able to take her part in the famil_ubilation, not quite as heartily as usual, perhaps, but without repinings a_my's good fortune. The young lady herself received the news as tidings o_reat joy, went about in a solemn sort of rapture, and began to sort he_olors and pack her pencils that evening, leaving such trifles as clothes, money, and passports to those less absorbed in visions of art than herself.
  • "It isn't a mere pleasure trip to me, girls," she said impressively, as sh_craped her best palette. "It will decide my career, for if I have any genius, I shall find it out in Rome, and will do something to prove it."
  • "Suppose you haven't?" said Jo, sewing away, with red eyes, at the new collar_hich were to be handed over to Amy.
  • "Then I shall come home and teach drawing for my living," replied the aspiran_or fame, with philosophic composure. But she made a wry face at the prospect, and scratched away at her palette as if bent on vigorous measures before sh_ave up her hopes.
  • "No, you won't. You hate hard work, and you'll marry some rich man, and com_ome to sit in the lap of luxury all your days," said Jo.
  • "Your predictions sometimes come to pass, but I don't believe that one will.
  • I'm sure I wish it would, for if I can't be an artist myself, I should like t_e able to help those who are," said Amy, smiling, as if the part of Lad_ountiful would suit her better than that of a poor drawing teacher.
  • "Hum!" said Jo, with a sigh. "If you wish it you'll have it, for your wishe_re always granted—mine never."
  • "Would you like to go?" asked Amy, thoughtfully patting her nose with he_nife.
  • "Rather!"
  • "Well, in a year or two I'll send for you, and we'll dig in the Forum fo_elics, and carry out all the plans we've made so many times."
  • "Thank you. I'll remind you of your promise when that joyful day comes, if i_ver does," returned Jo, accepting the vague but magnificent offer a_ratefully as she could.
  • There was not much time for preparation, and the house was in a ferment til_my was off. Jo bore up very well till the last flutter of blue ribbo_anished, when she retired to her refuge, the garret, and cried till sh_ouldn't cry any more. Amy likewise bore up stoutly till the steamer sailed.
  • Then just as the gangway was about to be withdrawn, it suddenly came over he_hat a whole ocean was soon to roll between her and those who loved her best, and she clung to Laurie, the last lingerer, saying with a sob…
  • "Oh, take care of them for me, and if anything should happen… "
  • "I will, dear, I will, and if anything happens, I'll come and comfort you,"
  • whispered Laurie, little dreaming that he would be called upon to keep hi_ord.
  • So Amy sailed away to find the Old World, which is always new and beautiful t_oung eyes, while her father and friend watched her from the shore, ferventl_oping that none but gentle fortunes would befall the happy-hearted girl, wh_aved her hand to them till they could see nothing but the summer sunshin_azzling on the sea.