THE LAY OF A GOLDEN GOOSE.
Long ago in a poultry yard One dull November morn, Beneath a motherly soft wing A little goose was born. Who straightway peeped out of the shell To view the world beyond, Longing at once to sally forth And paddle in the pond. "Oh! be not rash," her father said, A mild Socratic bird; Her mother begged her not to stray With many a warning word. But little goosey was perverse, And eagerly did cry, "I've got a lovely pair of wings, Of course I ought to fly." In vain parental cacklings, In vain the cold sky's frown, Ambitious goosey tried to soar, But always tumbled down. The farm-yard jeered at her attempts, The peacocks screamed, "Oh fie! You're only a domestic goose, So don't pretend to fly." Great cock-a-doodle from his perch Crowed daily loud and clear, "Stay in the puddle, foolish bird, That is your proper sphere." The ducks and hens said, one and all, In gossip by the pool, "Our children never play such pranks; My dear, that fowl's a fool." The owls came out and flew about, Hooting above the rest, "No useful egg was ever hatched From transcendental nest." Good little goslings at their play And well-conducted chicks Were taught to think poor goosey's flights Were naughty, ill-bred tricks. They were content to swim and scratch, And not at all inclined For any wild-goose chase in search Of something undefined. Hard times she had as one may guess, That young aspiring bird, Who still from every fall arose Saddened but undeterred. She knew she was no nightingale, Yet spite of much abuse, She longed to help and cheer the world, Although a plain gray goose. She could not sing, she could not fly, Nor even walk with grace, And all the farm-yard had declared A puddle was her place. But something stronger than herself Would cry, "Go on, go on! Remember, though an humble fowl, You're cousin to a swan." So up and down poor goosey went, A busy, hopeful bird. Searched many wide unfruitful fields, And many waters stirred. At length she came unto a stream Most fertile of all Niles, Where tuneful birds might soar and sing Among the leafy isles. Here did she build a little nest Beside the waters still, Where the parental goose could rest Unvexed by any bill. And here she paused to smooth her plumes, Ruffled by many plagues; When suddenly arose the cry, "This goose lays golden eggs." At once the farm-yard was agog; The ducks began to quack; Prim Guinea fowls relenting called, "Come back, come back, come back." Great chanticleer was pleased to give A patronizing crow, And the contemptuous biddies clucked, "I wish my chicks did so." The peacocks spread their shining tails, And cried in accents soft, "We want to know you, gifted one, Come up and sit aloft." Wise owls awoke and gravely said, With proudly swelling breasts, "Rare birds have always been evoked From transcendental nests!" News-hunting turkeys from afar Now ran with all thin legs To gobble facts and fictions of The goose with golden eggs. But best of all the little fowls Still playing on the shore, Soft downy chicks and goslings gay, Chirped out, "Dear Goose, lay more." But goosey all these weary years Had toiled like any ant, And wearied out she now replied, "My little dears, I can't. "When I was starving, half this corn Had been of vital use, Now I am surfeited with food Like any Strasbourg goose." So to escape too many friends, Without uncivil strife, She ran to the Atlantic pond And paddled for her life. Soon up among the grand old Alps She found two blessed things, The health she had so nearly lost, And rest for weary limbs. But still across the briny deep Couched in most friendly words, Came prayers for letters, tales, or verse, From literary birds. Whereat the renovated fowl With grateful thanks profuse, Took from her wing a quill and wrote This lay of a Golden Goose. Bex, Switzerland, August, 1870.
THE year 1869 was less fruitful in work than the preceding one. Miss Alcott spent the winter in Boston and the summer in Concord. She was ill and very tired, and felt little inclined for mental effort. "Hospital Sketches," which had been first published by Redpath, was now republished by Roberts Brothers, with the addition of six shorter "Camp and Fireside Stories." The interest of the public in either the author or the work had not lessened; for two thousand copies of the book in its new form were sold the first week. In her weary condition she finds her celebrity rather a burden than a pleasure, and says in her journal:–
People begin to come and stare at the Alcotts. Reporters haunt the place to look at the authoress, who 208 dodges into the woods à la Hawthorne, and won't be even a very small lion.
Refreshed my soul with Goethe, ever strong and fine and alive. Gave S. E. S. $200 to invest. What richness to have a little not needed!
Miss Alcott had some pleasant refreshment in travelling during the summer.
July.– ... Spent in Canada with my cousins, the Frothinghams, at their house at Rivière du Loup,–a little village on the St. Lawrence, full of queer people. Drove, read, and walked with the little ones. A pleasant, quiet time.
August.– ... A month with May at Mt. Desert. A gay time, and a little rest and pleasure before the old pain and worry began again.
Made up $1,000 for S. E. S. to invest. Now I have $1,200 for a rainy day, and no debts. With that thought I can bear neuralgia gayly.
In the autumn the whole family went to Boston, the father and mother staying with Mrs. Pratt; while Louisa and her sister May, "the workers," occupied rooms in Pinckney Street. Not being well enough to do much new work, Louisa began using up her old stories, and found that the little women "helped their rejected sisters to good places where once they went a-begging." In January, 1870, she suffered from loss of voice, for which she tried "heroic treatment" under a distinguished physician. She got well enough to write a little, and in February wrote the conclusion to "The Old-fashioned Girl," which was published in March. She says:– 209
I wrote it with left hand in a sling, one foot up, head aching, and no voice. Yet, as the book is funny, people will say, "Didn't you enjoy doing it?" I often think of poor Tom Hood as I scribble, rather than lie and groan. I certainly earn my living by the sweat of my brow.
The book does not reveal this condition; for nothing could be fresher, brighter, and more wholesome than the heroine Polly, many of whose adventures are drawn from the author's own experience. She steps out of her usual surroundings into the fashionable life of the city, but betrays her own want of sympathy with it. The book has always been very popular.
In 1870, the success of "Hospital Sketches" and the continued receipts from "Little Women" put their author in a pecuniary position which enabled her to go abroad for the rest and refreshment which she sorely needed. The younger sister was invited to go by her friend A. B. on condition that Louisa would accompany them. This journey was very free and independent. She has given an account–somewhat travestied certainly, but very true to the general facts–in "Shawl Straps," although the reader would hardly suppose the old lady described in that book had not yet reached her fortieth year. These sketches were arranged after her return, at the request of Mrs. Stowe, for the "Christian Union," and were published in a book forming one volume of "Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag" in 1872.
Fortunately we have many of Louisa's original letters preserved in her father's copies, which have 210 escaped the destruction of her correspondence. With some extracts from her journals, they give a sufficient account of this journey. In many respects the contrast to her former visit to Europe is most pleasant. She has now become pecuniarily independent by her own exertions, and has a popular reputation which brings her welcome and recognition wherever she goes. But she has paid a heavy price for these gains. Her health has become seriously shattered. The long application to writing, sometimes even for fourteen hours a day,–a pressure of excitement which kept her from eating and sleeping,–added to sorrow and anxiety, have told upon her nerves and strength, and she is often unfitted to enjoy the pleasures which are open to her. Yet her journal and letters are as full of wit and humor as ever; and she laid up stores of pleasant memories which lasted her through life. Readers of "Shawl Straps" will recognize the originals of those bright sketches in the series of letters from Dinan.
Second Trip to Europe.
April.–... On the first day of the month (fit day for my undertaking I thought) May and I went to N. Y. to meet A. B., with John for escort. Every one very kind. Thirty gifts, a parting ball among our house-mates, and a great cake. Half-a-dozen devoted beings at the station to see us off. But I remember only Father and Mother as they went away the day before, leaving the two ambitious daughters to sail away, perhaps forever.
Marmee kept up bravely, and nodded and smiled; but at the corner I saw the white handkerchief go up to the 211 eyes, after being gayly waved to us. May and I broke down, and said, "We won't go;" but next day we set forth, as young birds will, and left the nest empty for a year.
Sailed on the 2d in a gale of wind in the French steamer "Lafayette" for Brest. Our adventures are told in "Shawl Straps."
"O. F. G." came out in March, and sold well. Train-boy going to N. Y. put it into my lap; and when I said I didn't care for it, exclaimed with surprise,–
"Bully book, ma'am! Sell a lot; better have it."
John told him I wrote it; and his chuckle, stare, and astonished "No!" was great fun. On the steamer little girls had it, and came in a party to call on me, very sea-sick in my berth, done up like a mummy.
Spent some charming weeks in Brittany.
June and July.–"O. F. G." was published in London by Sampson Low & Co. We left Dinan on the 15th, and had a lovely trip through France to Vevay and Bex.
Talk of war between France and Prussia.
Much excitement at Vevay. Refugees from Lyons come in. Isabella and Don Carlos were there, with queer followers.
September.–... On the 3d came news of the Emperor's surrender. Great wailing among the French here. All well at home. Books going finely; no debts.
We decide to go to Rome for the winter, as May pines for the artist's Paradise; and war will not trouble us I hope.
Ship "Lafayette," April 9, 1870.
Dearest Marmee,–To-morrow we come to our long journey's end [Brest, France], thank the Lord. It has been a good one on the whole, and I have got along 212 as well as I expected. But it is tiresome to be day after day doing nothing; for my head will not let me read. May has done well, and has been very kind to me and good, and is the life of the table, I guess. I never go up to meals, for Marie takes such good care of me; I lie and peck all sorts of funny messes, and receive calls in my den. People seem to think we are "guns," and want to know us; but as they are not interesting, we are on the reserve, and it has a fine effect. About three thousand miles away does not seem possible in so little while. How do you all get along,–Marmee, Father, the laddies, my lass, and dear old John? He was so good and kind all the way I had no care or worry, but just lopped round and let him do all the work. Bless the dear!
I shall despatch a good long letter as soon as we arrive and have something to tell. We send this to ease your mind. Letters here are not prepaid, so pay for mine out of my money. Don't forget to tell the post-master in Boston about my letters.
Bless you all, says your
Morlaix, April 14, 1870.
Dearest Marmee,–Having got our "poise" a bit by a day and night on land, I begin at once to scribble to you, as I mean to keep a letter on hand all the time, and send them off as fast as they are done. We had a twelve days' passage, owing to a double screw which they were trying and which delayed us, though it is safer than one. The weather was cold and rainy, and the sea rough, so I only went up once or twice, and kept warm in my den most of the time. After the first two days I didn't feel sick, except my head as usual. I slept, ate, ruminated, and counted the hours. May poked about more, and was liked by all. 213
We got to Brest about noon Wednesday. A. and I got our trunks through the custom-house, and after some squabbling with the men, got all aboard for Morlaix, which is a curious old place worth seeing. It was a lovely day, warm as our June, and we had a charming trip of three hours through a country already green and flowery. We reached our hotel all right, and after a nice dinner had baths and went to bed. May's room being some way from mine, she came and bunked in with me in my little bed, and we slept.
To-day is lovely, warm, and I am sitting at an open window looking at the square, enjoying the queer sights and sounds; for the air resounds with the rattle of wooden shoes on the stones.
Market-women sit all about selling queer things, among which are snails; they buy them by the pint, pick them out with a pin like nuts, and seem to relish them mightily. We went out this a.m. after breakfast, and took a stroll about the queer old town. May was in heaven, and kept having raptures over the gables, the turrets with storks on them, the fountains, people, and churches. She is now sketching the tower of St. Melanie, with a crowd of small boys round her enjoying the sight and criticising the work. It don't seem very new to me, but I enjoy it, and feel pretty well. We are to study French every day when we settle, and I am to do the mending, etc., for A., who is to talk for us, and make our bargains. So far we go well together.
To-morrow we go on to Lamballe, where we take the diligence to Dinan, fourteen miles farther, and there settle for some weeks. I wish the boys could see the funny children here in little wooden shoes like boats, the girls in blue cloth caps, aprons, and shawls, just like the women, and the boys in funny hats and sheepskin jackets. Now 214 I must go and get May, who can't speak a word of French, and has a panic if any one speaks to her. The beggars afflict her, and she wants to give them money on all occasions. This p.m. we go for a drive to see all there is, as neither A. nor I are good walkers; "adoo" till by and by. I wish I could send you this balmy day.
Dinan, Sunday, April 17, 1870.
Here we are, all settled at our first neat stopping-place, and are in clover, as you will see when I tell you how plummy and lovely it is. We left Morlaix Friday at 8 a.m., and were so amazed at the small bill presented us that we couldn't praise the town enough. You can judge of the cheapness of things, when I say that my share of the expenses from Brest here, including two days at a hotel, car, 'bus, and diligence fare, fees, and everything, was $8. The day was divine, and we had a fine little journey to Lamballe, where the fun began; for instead of a big diligence, we found only a queer ramshackle thing like an insane carryall, with a wooden boot and queer porch for the driver.
Our four trunks were piled up behind and tied on with old ropes, our bags stowed in a wooden box on top, and ourselves inside with a fat Frenchman. The humpbacked driver "ya hooped" to the horses, and away we clattered at a wild pace, all feeling dead sure that something would happen, for the old thing bounded and swayed awfully, the trunks were in danger of tumbling off, and to our dismay we soon discovered that the big Frenchman was tipsy. He gabbled to A. as only a tipsy person could, quoted poetry; said he was Victor Hugo's best friend, and a child of Nature; that English ladies were all divine, but too cold,–for when he pressed A.'s hand she told him it was not allowed in England, and he was overwhelmed 215 with remorse; bowed, sighed, rolled his eyes, and told her that he drank much ale, because it flew to his head and gave him "commercial ideas."
I never saw anything so perfectly absurd as it was, and after we got used to it we laughed ourselves sick over the lark. You ought to have seen us and our turnout, tearing over the road at a breakneck pace, pitching, creaking, and rattling, the funny driver hooting at the horses, who had their tails done up in chignons, blue harness, and strings of bells, the drunken man warbling, exhorting, and languishing at us all by turns, while A. headed him off with great skill. I sat, a mass of English dignity and coolness, suffering alternate agonies of anxiety and amusement, and May, who tied her head up in a bundle, looked like a wooden image.
It was rich; and when we took up first a peasant woman in wooden shoes and fly-away cap, and then a red-nosed priest smoking a long pipe, we were a superb spectacle. In this style we banged into Dinan, stopped at the gate, and were dumped bag and baggage in the square. Finding Madame Coste's man was not here for us, we hired a man to bring our trunks up. To our great amazement, an oldish woman, who was greasing the wheels of a diligence, came, and catching up our big trunks, whipped them into two broad carts, and taking one trotted down the street at a fine pace, followed by the man with the other. That was the finishing touch; and we went laughing after them through the great arched gate into the quaintest, prettiest, most romantic town I ever saw. Narrow streets with overhanging gables, distracting roofs, windows, and porches, carved beams, and every sort of richness. The strong old lady beat the man, and finally landed us close by another old gate at a charming house fronting the south, overlooking a lovely green valley, full 216 of gardens, blooming plum and peach trees, windmills, and a ruined castle, at sight of which we all skipped. Madame Coste received us with rapture, for A. brought a letter from Mrs. L., who stayed here and was the joy of the old lady's soul. We were in great luck, for being early in the season she had three rooms left, and we nabbed them at once,–a salon with old oak walls and wardrobes, blue damask furniture, a fireplace, funny windows, and quaint furniture. A little room out of it for A., and upstairs a larger room for May and me, with two beds draped in green chintz, and carved big wardrobe, etc., and best of all, a sunny window toward the valley. For these rooms and our board we each pay $1 a day, and I call that cheap. It would be worth that to get the fun and air alone, for it is like June, and we sit about with open windows, flowers in the fields, birds singing, and everything spring-like.
We took possession at once, and dressed for a dinner at six. We were then presented to our fellow-boarders,–Madame Forney, a buxom widow, her son Gaston, a handsome Frenchy youth of twenty-three, and her daughter, a homely girl of twenty, who is to be married here on the 3d of May. After a great bowing and scraping we had a funny fish dinner, it being Good Friday. When they found we didn't speak French they were "desolated," and begged us to learn at once, which we solemnly vowed to do. Gaston "knew English," so May at once began to teach him more, and the ice being broken we got gay and friendly at once. I could understand them pretty well, but can't talk, and A. told them that I was forbidden to say much on account of my throat. This will give me a chance to get a fair start. May pegs away at her grammar, and with that and the elegant Gaston, she will soon begin to "parlez-vous." 217
After dinner we were borne to the great salon, where a fire, lights, and a piano appeared. Every one sat round and gabbled except the Alcotts, who looked and laughed. Mademoiselle Forney played, and then May convulsed them by singing some Chants Amériques, which they thought very lively and droll. They were all attention and devotion to Madame Coste,–a tall old lady with whiskers, who kept embracing A. and beaming at us in her great content at being friends of chère Madame L. A. told them that I was a celebrated authoress, and May a very fine artist, and we were beamed at more than ever. Being tired, we turned in early, after a jolly time in our own little salon, eating chocolate and laying plans.
Dinan, April 20, 1870.
... A. and I went shopping. A. got a little bird to enliven our parlor, a sort of sparrow, gray with a red head and a lively song. We named him Bernard du Guesclin (the hero of the town), and call him Bernie. I got some nice gloves for three francs (sixty cents), and a white sun-umbrella for May (forty cents). She needs it when she sketches, and there is always a crowd of children round her to watch and admire; she gives one of them a sou to hold the umbrella, and so gets on nicely.
In the p.m. A. and I went to the little village of Lahou, in the valley where the ruined castle is, to a fair. It was a very picturesque sight, for the white-capped women, sitting about on the green hillside, looked like flowers, and the blue blouses of the men and wide-brimmed hats added to the effect. The little street was lined with booths, where they sold nuts, queer cakes, hot sausages, and pancakes, toys, etc. I got a funny cake, just the size and shape of a deep pie-dish, and a jack-knife, for a sou. We also indulged in nuts, and sat on our campstools 218 in a shady place and ate them boldly in the public mart, while enjoying the lively scene. French and English people went by in droll parties, and we coolly sat and stared at them. May is going to sketch the castle, so I won't waste paper describing the pretty place with the ruined church full of rooks, the old mill with the waterwheel housed in vines, or the winding river, and meadows full of blue hyacinths and rosy daisies.
Yesterday, A. and I had to return the call of Mademoiselle M., and as she speaks English I got on very well. The stairs to her apartment were so steep that we held on by a velvet-covered rope as we climbed up. In the p.m. we had fun, for we took two donkey carriages and rode to the mineral spring. Gaston was sick and couldn't go, as we had planned, so May drove herself in one, and A. and I in the other. I wish the boys could have seen us, it was so funny. The carriages were bath-chairs with a wee donkey harnessed to each, so small, so neat, and looking so venerable with thin long ears and bits of feet that I felt as if I was driving my grandmother. May was a very imposing sight, alone in her chair under her new umbrella, in her gray suit, with bright gloves and a big whip, driving a gray rat who wouldn't trot unless pounded and banged and howled at in the maddest way. Our steed was bigger, but the most pig-headed old scamp you ever saw, for it took two big women to make him go. I drove, and A. thrashed away with all her might,–our joint efforts only producing occasional short trots which enraged us dreadfully.
We laughed till we were sick, it was so very absurd; while May trundled serenely along, enjoying the fine views regardless of her rat, who paced along at his ease, wagging his ears and meditating.
We had a nice trip, but didn't drink the water, as iron 219 don't suit us. Coming home, we passed the home of the donkeys, and they at once turned in, and were with much difficulty persuaded to go on by two short girls in caps and short gowns, who ran and shouted "E! E! va oui!" and punched sticks into the poor asses, rattling us over the stones till our eyes danced in our heads. We found it rather hard work, and A. means to buy a horse and straw pony-chaise, so we can drive ourselves in peace where we like....
A. is bargaining for a horse which an Englishman wishes to sell for $50, including harness and cart. We can't hire horses for less than $2 a drive, and donkeys are vile, so it is cheaper to buy, and sell when we go away, and so drive as much as we like. A. knows about such things, and takes all the responsibility.... To-morrow we go on a little excursion in the steamboat down the river, and return à la donkey with the English ladies, who have returned our call and are very friendly.
Please forward this little note in an envelope to its address. The child wrote me a pretty letter, which N. sent, and the pa said I wouldn't answer. The child said, "I know she will, she is so nice." So I do. Best love to every one. Don't go home too soon. I shall write to Fred and Jack next time. Good-by.
To M. S.
... They call each other pet names that convulse us,–"my little pig," "my sweet hen," "my cabbage," and "my tom-cat." A French lady with her son and daughter board here, and their ways amuse us mightily. The girl is to be married next week to a man whom she has seen twice, and never talked to but an hour in her life. She writes to him what her mother dictates, and says she should be ashamed to love him before they were married. 220 Her wedding clothes absorb her entire mind, and her Jules will get a pretty doll when he takes Mademoiselle A. F. to wife. Gaston, the son, puts on blasé airs, though only twenty-two, and languishes at May, for they can't talk, as he does not know English nor she French.
I left my letter to drive to a ruined château, which we went all over, as a part is inhabited by a farmer who keeps his hog in the great banqueting hall, his grain in the chapel, and his hens in the lady's chamber. It was very picturesque; the old rooms, with ivy coming in at the windows, choking up the well, and climbing up the broken towers. The lady of the château was starved to death by her cruel brothers, and buried in the moat, where her bones were found long afterward, and her ghost still haunts the place they say. Here we had cider, tell Pa.
Coming home we saw a Dolmen, one of the Druidical remains. It stood in a grove of old pines,–a great post of gray stone, some twenty-five feet high, and very big round. It leaned as if falling, and had queer holes in it. Brittany is full of these relics, which no one can explain, and I was glad to see the mysterious things.
Yesterday we took a little trip down the river in a tiny steamer, going through a lock and skimming along between the green banks of the narrow river to Miss M.'s country-house, where we had new milk, and lay on the grass for an hour or so. Then May and Miss M. walked home, and A. and I went in a donkey cart.
To-day the girls have gone to La Garaye with Gaston on donkeys. The weather has been cold for a day or two with easterly winds. So I feel it at once and keep warm. It is very unusual at this time, but comes, I suppose, because I've travelled hundreds of miles to get rid 221 of them. It won't last long, and then we shall be hot enough.
We lead such quiet, lazy lives I really have nothing to tell.
Oh, yes, the fiancé of Mademoiselle has arrived, and amuses us very much. He is a tiny man in uniform, with a red face, big moustache, and blue eyes. He thinks he talks English, and makes such very funny mistakes. He asked us if we had been to "promenade on monkeys" meaning donkeys, and called the Casino "the establishment of dance." He addresses all his attentions to the ma, and only bows to his future wife, who admires her diamonds and is contented. We are going away on the day of the wedding, as it is private.
The girls have just returned in great spirits, for A.'s donkey kept lying down, and it took all three to get him up again. They sat in a sort of chair, and looked very funny with the four little legs under them and long ears flopping before. I shall go to Garaye some fine day, and will tell you about it.
Adieu, love to all. Yours,
Dinan, May 6, 1870.
Dear People,–I have just got a fat letter full of notices from N.,–all good, and news generally pleasant.
The great event of the season is over, and Miss F. is Mrs. C. It was a funny scene, for they had a breakfast the day before, then on Tuesday the wedding. We did not go, as the church is like a tomb, but we saw the bride, in white satin, pearls, orange flowers, and lace, very pretty, and like other brides. Her ma, in purple moire and black lace, was fine to see; and the little groom, in full regimentals, with a sabre as large as himself, was very funny. A lot of people came in carriages 222 to escort them to church; and our little square was full of queer turnouts, smartly dressed people, and a great bustle. There was some mistake about the bride's carriage, and it did not drive up in time, so she stood on the steps till it came as near as it could, and then she trotted out to it on Gaston's arm, with her maid holding up her satin train. Uncle, ma, bride, and brother drove off, but the groom's carriage was delayed by the breaking of a trace, and there he sat, with his fat pa and ma, after every one had gone, fuming, and poking his little cocked hat out of the window, while the man mended the harness, and every one looked on with breathless interest.
We went to D–– with Coste in the p.m., and had a fine view of the sea and San Malo. We didn't like D––, and won't go there. When we got home about eight o'clock the wedding dinner was in full blast, and I caught a glimpse of a happy pair at the head of the table, surrounded by a lot of rigged-up ladies and fine men, all gabbing and gabbling as only French folk can. The couple are still here, resting and getting acquainted before they go to Lamballe for a week of festivity. A church wedding is a very funny thing, and I wish you could have seen it.
The dry season continues, and the people have processions and masses to pray for rain. One short flurry of hail is all we have had, and the cold winds still blow. When our month is out we shall go somewhere near the sea if it is at all warm. Nothing could be kinder than dear old Coste, and I couldn't be in a better place to be poorly in than this; she coddles me like a mother, and is so grieved that I don't get better.
Send Ma a bit of the gorse flower with which the fields are now yellow.
Dinan, May 13, 1870.
Dearest Folks,–We drove to Guildo yesterday to see if we should like it for July. It is a queer little town on the seashore, with ruins near by, bright houses, and lots of boats. Rooms a franc a day, and food very cheap. The man of the house–a big, brown, Peggotty sailor–has a sloop, and promised the girls as much sailing as they liked. We may go, but our plans are very vague, and one day we say we will go to one place and the next to another, and shall probably end by staying where we are.
Dinan, May 17, 1870.
Dearest People,–We run out and do errands in the cool before breakfast at ten, then we write, sew, and read, and look round, till four, when we go to drive. May and I in the cherry bounce with M. Harmon to drive us, and A. on horseback; for, after endless fuss, she has at last evoked a horse out of chaos, and comes galloping gayly after us as we drive about the lovely roads with the gallant hotel-keeper, Adolph Harmon. We are getting satiated with ruins and châteaux, and plan a trip by water to Nantes; for the way they do it is to hire a big boat and be towed by a horse in the most luxurious manner.
Dinan, May 25, 1870.
Dear Betsey,–All well. We have also had fun about the queer food, as we don't like brains, liver, etc. A. does; and when we eat some mess, not knowing what 224 it is, and find it is sheep's tails or eels, she exults over us, and writes poems.
I wander dreadfully, but the girls are racketing, birdie singing like mad, and nine horses neighing to one another in the place, so my ideas do not flow as clearly as they should. Besides, I expect Gaston to come in every minute to show us his rig; for he is going to a picnic in Breton costume,–a very French affair, for the party are to march two and two, with fiddlers in front, and donkeys bearing the feast in the rear. Such larks!
Yesterday we had a funny time. We went to drive in a basket chair, very fine, with a perch behind and a smart harness; but most of the horses here are stallions, and act like time. Ours went very well at first, but in the town took to cutting up, and suddenly pounced on to a pile of brush, and stuck his head into a bake-shop. We tried to get him out, but he only danced and neighed, and all the horses in town seemed to reply. A man came and led him on a bit, but he didn't mean to go, and whisked over to the other side, where he tangled us and himself up with a long string of team horses. I flew out and May soon followed. A. was driving, and kept in while the man led the "critter" back to the stable. I declined my drive with the insane beast, and so we left him and bundled home in the most ignominious manner. All the animals are very queer here, and, unlike ours, excessively big.
We went to a ruin one day, and were about to explore the castle, when a sow, with her family of twelve, charged through the gateway at us so fiercely that we fled in dismay; for pigs are not nice when they attack, as we don't know where to bone 'em, and I saw a woman one day whose nose had been bitten off by an angry pig. I 225 flew over a hedge; May tried to follow. I pulled her over head first, and we tumbled into the tower like a routed garrison. It wasn't a nice ruin, but we were bound to see it, having suffered so much. And we did see it, in spite of the pigs, who waylaid us on all sides, and squealed in triumph when we left,–dirty, torn, and tired. The ugly things wander at their own sweet will, and are tall, round-backed, thin wretches, who run like race horses, and are no respecters of persons.
Sunday was a great day here, for the children were confirmed. It was a pretty sight to see the long procession of little girls, in white gowns and veils, winding through the flowery garden and the antique square, into the old church, with their happy mothers following, and the boys in their church robes singing as they went. The old priest was too ill to perform the service, but the young one who did announced afterward that if the children would pass the house the old man would bless them from his bed. So all marched away down the street, with crosses and candles, and it was very touching to see the feeble old man stretch out his hands above them as the little white birds passed by with bended heads, while the fresh, boyish voices chanted the responses. This old priest is a very interesting man, for he is a regular saint, helping every one, keeping his house as a refuge for poor and old priests, settling quarrels among the people, and watching over the young people as if they were his own. I shall put him in a story.
Voilà! Gaston has just come in, rigged in a white embroidered jacket, with the Dinan coat-of-arms worked in scarlet and yellow silk on it fore and aft; a funny hat, with streamers, and a belt, with a knife, horn, etc. He is handsome, and as fond of finery as a girl. I'll send you his picture next time, and one of Dinan. 226
You will see that Marmee has all she needs, and a girl, and as much money as she wants for being cosey and comfortable. S. E. S. will let her have all she wants, and make her take it. I'm sorry the chapel $100 didn't come, for she likes to feel that she has some of her very own.
I have written to Conway and Mrs. Taylor, so that if we decide to take a run to England before we go to Italy, the way will be open....
But Dinan is so healthy and cosey, that we shall linger till the heat makes us long for the sea. Roses, cherries, strawberries, and early vegetables are come, and we are in clover. Dear old Coste broods over us like a motherly hen, and just now desired me to give her affectionate and respectful compliments to my bonne mère.
Now I'm spun out; so adieu, my darling Nan. Write often, and I will keep sending,–trusting that you will get them in time.
Kisses all round.
Dinan, May 30, 1870.
Dear Folks,–May has made up such a big letter that I will only add a line to give you the last news of the health of her Highness Princess Louisa. She is such a public character nowadays that even her bones are not her own, and her wails of woe cannot be kept from the long ears of the world,–old donkey as it is!
Dr. Kane, who was army surgeon in India, and doctor in England for forty years, says my leg trouble and many of my other woes come from the calomel they gave me in Washington. He has been through the same thing with an Indian jungle fever, and has never got the calomel out of him.... I don't know anything about it, only my leg is the curse of my life. But I think 227 Dr. K.'s iodine of potash will cure it in the end, as it did his arms, after taking it for three months. It is simple, pleasant, and seems to do something to the bones that gives them ease; so I shall sip away and give it a good trial.
We are now revelling in big strawberries, green peas, early potatoes, and other nice things, on which we shall grow fat as pigs.
We are beginning to think of a trip into Normandy, where the H.'s are.
Love to all. By-by!
No news except through N., who yesterday sent me a nice letter with July account of $6,212,–a neat little sum for "the Alcotts, who can't make money!" With $10,000 well invested, and more coming in all the time, I think we may venture to enjoy ourselves, after the hard times we have all had.
The cream of the joke is, that we made our own money ourselves, and no one gave us a blessed penny. That does soothe my rumpled soul so much that the glory is not worth thinking of.
Dinan, June 4, 1870.
The present excitement is the wood which Coste is having put in. Loads keep coming in queer, heavy carts drawn by four horses each, and two men to work the machine. Two men chop the great oak stumps, and a woman puts it in down cellar by the armful. The men get two francs a day,–forty cents! (Wouldn't our $3 a day workmen howl at that sort of wages!) When several carts arrive at once the place is a lively scene. Just now there were three carts and twelve horses, and eight were all up in a snarl, while half-a-dozen 228 ladies stood at their doors and gave advice. One had a half-dressed baby in her arms; one a lettuce she was washing; another her distaff; and a fourth her little bowl of soup, which she ate at on the sidewalk, in the intervals gesticulating so frantically that her sabots rattled on the stones. The horses had a free fight, and the man couldn't seem to manage one big one, who romped about like a wild elephant, till the lady with the baby suddenly set the half-naked cherub on the doorsteps, charged in among the rampant beasts, and, by some magic howl or jerk, brought the bad horse to order, when she quietly returned to her baby, who had sat placidly eating dirt, and with a calm Voilà, messieurs, she skipped little Jean into his shirt, and the men sat down to smoke.
We are now in great excitement over Gaston, who has lately become so very amiable that we don't know him. We began by letting the spoiled child severely alone. This treatment worked well, and now he offers us things at table, bows when we enter, and to-day presented us with green tulips, violet shrubs, and queer medals all round. We have let little bits of news leak out about us, and they think we are dukes and duchesses in Amérique, and pronounce us très spirituelles; très charmantes; très seductives femmes. We laugh in private, and are used to having the entire company rise when we enter, and embrace us with ardor, listen with uplifted hands and shrieks of mon Dieu! grand ciel! etc., to all remarks, and point us out in public as les dames Américaines. Such is fame!
An English lady arrived to-day–a Miss B.–dressed, with English taste, in a little green skirt, pink calico waist, a large crumpled frill, her hair in a tight knot, one front tooth sticking straight out, and a golden oriole in a large 229 cage. She is about forty, very meek and pursy, and the old ladies have been sitting in a heap since breakfast, talking like mad.
May has "sack" on the brain just now, and A. has "hose" on the brain; and at this moment they are both gabbling wildly, one saying, "I shall trim it with blue and have it pinked!" the other shrieking, "My hose must be red, with little dragons in black all over it, like small-pox!" and the bird flies to her upper perch in dismay at the riot, while I sit and laugh, with an occasional duennaish, "Young ladies, less noise if you please!"
It rained last eve, and we are waiting for it to dry before going out in the donkey chaise to buy a warm bun and some strawberries for lunch, to be eaten as we parade the town and drink ale at intervals.
Do tell me how things are about my pictures. I see they are advertised, and if they sell I want my share of the profits. Send me one of those that are in the market, after taking off the heavy card.
Love to all, and the best of luck.
Hotel d'Universe, Tours, June 17, 1870.
Dearest People,–Our wanderings have begun again, and here we are in this fine old city in a cosey hotel, as independent and happy as three old girls can be. We left Dinan Wednesday at 7 a.m. Gaston got up to see us off,–a most unusual and unexpected honor; also Mrs. B. and all the old ladies, whom we left dissolved in tears.
We had a lovely sail down the river to St. Malo, where we breakfasted at Hotel Franklin, a quaint old house in a flowery corner. At twelve we went by rail to Le Mans,–a long trip,–and arrived at 6 p.m. so tired 230 that we went to bed in the moonlight while a band played in the square before the hotel, and the sidewalks before the café were full of people taking ices and coffee round little tables.
Next morning we went to see the famous cathedral and had raptures, for it is like a dream in stone. Pure Gothic of the twelfth century, with the tomb of Berengaria, wife of Cœur de Leon, stained glass of the richest kind, dim old chapels with lamps burning, a gorgeous high altar all crimson and gold and carmine, and several organs. Anything more lovely and divine I never saw, for the arches, so light and graceful, seemed to soar up one above the other like the natural curves of trees or the spray of a great fountain. We spent a long time here and I sat above in the quaint old chapel with my eyes and heart full, and prayed a little prayer for my family. Old women and men knelt about in corners telling their beads, and the priest was quietly saying his prayers at the altar. Outside it was a pile of gray stone, with towers and airy pinnacles full of carved saints and busy rooks. I don't think we shall see anything finer anywhere. It was very hot for there had been no rain for four months, so we desired to start for town at 5 and get in about 8 as it is light then.
We had a pleasant trip in the cool of the day, and found Tours a great city, like Paris on a small scale. Our hotel is on the boulevard, and the trees, fountains, and fine carriages make our windows very tempting. We popped into bed early; and my bones are so much better that I slept without any opium or anything,–a feat I have not performed for some time.
This morning we had coffee and rolls in bed, then as it was a fine cool day we dressed up clean and nice and went out for a walk. At the post-office we found your 231 letters of May 31, one from Nan and Ma, and one from L. We were exalted, and went into the garden and read them in bliss, with the grand cathedral right before us. Cathedral St. Martin, twelfth century, with tomb of Charles XIII.'s children, the armor of Saint Louis, fine pictures of Saint Martin, his cloak, etc. May will tell you about it and I shall put in a photograph, if I can find one. We are now–12 o'clock–in our pleasant room all round the table writing letters and resting for another trip by and by.
The Fête Dieu is on Monday,–very splendid,–and we shall then see the cathedral in its glory. To-day a few hundred children were having their first communion there, girls all in white, with scarlet boys, crosses, candles, music, priests, etc. Get a Murray, and on the map of France follow us to Geneva, via St. Malo, Le Mans, Tours, Amboise and Blois, Orleans, Nevers, Autun. We may go to the Vosges instead of the Jura if Mrs. H. can go, as A. wants to see her again. But we head for the Alps of some sort and will report progress as we go.
My money holds out well so far, as we go second class.
To her Father.
Tours, June 20, 1870.
Dear Papa,–Before we go on to fresh "châteaux and churches new," I must tell you about the sights here in this pleasant, clean, handsome old city. May has done the church for you, and I send a photograph to give some idea of it. The inside is very beautiful; and we go at sunset to see the red light make the gray walls lovely outside and the shadows steal from chapel to chapel inside, filling the great church with what is really "a dim religious gloom." We wandered about it the 232 other evening till moonrise, and it was very interesting to see the people scattered here and there at their prayers; some kneeling before Saint Martin's shrine, some in a flowery little nook dedicated to the infant Christ, and one, a dark corner with a single candle lighting up a fine picture of the Mater Dolorosa, where a widow all in her weeds sat alone, crying and praying. In another a sick old man sat, while his old wife knelt by him praying with all her might to Saint Gratien (the patron saint of the church) for her dear old invalid. Nuns and priests glided about, and it was all very poetical and fine, till I came to an imposing priest in a first class chapel who was taking snuff and gaping, instead of piously praying.
The Fête Dieu was yesterday, and I went out to see the procession. The streets were hung with old tapestry, and sheets covered with flowers. Crosses, crowns, and bouquets were suspended from house to house, and as the procession approached, women ran out and scattered green boughs and rose-leaves before the train. A fine band and a lot of red soldiers came first, then the different saints on banners, carried by girls, and followed by long trains of girls bearing the different emblems. Saint Agnes and her lamb was followed by a flock of pretty young children all in white, carrying tall white lilies that filled the air with their fragrance.
"Mary our Mother" was followed by orphans with black ribbons crossed on their breasts. Saint Martin led the charity boys in their gray suits, etc. The Host under a golden canopy was borne by priests in gorgeous rig, and every one knelt as it passed with censors swinging, candles burning, boys chanting, and flowers dropping from the windows. A pretty young lady ran out and set her baby in a pile of green leaves in the middle of the street before the Host, and it passed over the little thing 233 who sat placidly staring at the show and admiring its blue shoes. I suppose it is a saved and sacred baby henceforth.
It was a fine pageant and quite touching, some of it; but as usual, I saw something funny to spoil the solemnity. A very fat and fine priest, who walked with his eyes upon his book and sung like a pious bumblebee, suddenly destroyed the effect by rapping a boy over the head with his gold prayer-book, as the black sheep strayed a little from the flock. I thought the old saint swore also.
The procession went from the cathedral to Charlemagne's Tower, an old, old relic, all that is left of the famous church which once covered a great square. We went to see it, and the stones looked as if they were able to tell wonderful tales of the scenes they had witnessed all these hundreds of years. I think the "Reminiscences of a Rook" would be a good story, for these old towers are full of them, and they are long-lived birds.
Amboise, The Golden Lion, Tuesday, June 21, 1870.
Here we go again! now in an utterly different scene from Tours. We left at 5 p.m., and in half an hour were here on the banks of the Loire in a queer little inn where we are considered duchesses at least, owing to our big trunks and A.'s good French. I am the Madame, May Mam'selle, and A. the companion.
Last evening being lovely, we went after dinner up to the castle where Charles VIII. was born in 1470. The Arab chief, Abd-el-Kader, and family were kept prisoners here, and in the old garden is a tomb with the crescent over it where some of them were buried. May was told about the terrace where the Huguenots hung thick and 234 the court enjoyed the sight till the Loire, choked up with dead bodies, forced them to leave. We saw the little low door where Anne of Brittany's first husband Charles VIII. "bumped his head" and killed himself, as he was running through to play bowls with his wife.
It has been modernized and is now being restored as in old times, so the interior was all in a toss. But we went down the winding road inside the tower, up which the knights and ladies used to ride. Father would have enjoyed the pleached walks, for they are cut so that looking down on them, it is like a green floor, and looking up it is a thick green wall. There also Margaret of Anjou and her son were reconciled to Warwick. Read Murray, I beg, and see all about it. We sat in the twilight on the terrace and saw what Fred would have liked, a little naked boy ride into the river on one horse after another, and swim them round in the deep water till they were all clean and cool.
This morning at 7 o'clock we drove to Chenonceaux, the chateau given by Henry II. to Diane de Poictiers. It was a lovely day, and we went rolling along through the most fruitful country I ever saw. Acre on acre of yellow grain, vineyards miles long, gardens and orchards full of roses and cherries. The Cher is a fine river winding through the meadows, where haymakers were at work and fat cattle feeding. It was a very happy hour, and the best thing I saw was May's rapturous face opposite, as she sat silently enjoying everything, too happy to talk.
The château built over the water is very interesting; Catherine de Medicis took it away from Diane when the king died, and her room is still seen as she left it; also a picture of Diane, a tall simpering woman in a tunic, with hounds, stag, cupids, and other rubbish round her. The gallery of pictures was fine; for here were old, old 235 portraits and bas-reliefs, Agnes Sorel, Montaigne, Rabelais, many kings and queens, and among them Lafayette and dear old Ben Franklin.
There is a little theatre where Rousseau's plays were acted. This place at the time of the Revolution belonged to the grandmother of George Sand, and she was so much respected that no harm was done to it. So three cheers for Madame Dupin! Among the pictures were Ninon D'Enclos, and Madame Sevigné holding a picture of her beloved daughter. The Guidos, etc. I don't care for so much as they were all grimy and convulsive, and I prefer pictures of people who really lived, to these impossible Venuses and repulsive saints,–bad taste, but I can't help it. The walls were hung with stamped leather and tapestry, carved chairs in which queens had sat, tables at which kings had eaten, books they had read, and glasses that had reflected their faces were all about, and I just revelled. The old kitchen had a fireplace quaint enough to suit Pa, with immense turn-spits, cranes, andirons, etc. The chapel, balcony, avenue, draw-bridge, and all the other pleasing bits were enjoyed, and I stole a sprig of jasmine from the terrace which I shall press for Mamma. Pray take extra care of the photographs, for if lost, we cannot replace them, and I want to make a fine album of pictures with flowers and descriptions after I get home.... But all goes well and we enjoy much every day. Love to all,
To her Mother.
Blois, June 24, 1870.
Dear Marmee,–On this, Lizzie's and Johnny's birthday, I'll begin a letter to you. We found at the Poste Restante here two "Moods" and a paper for me, one 236 book from L., and one from N. I think the pictures horrid, and sent them floating down the Loire as soon as possible, and put one book at the bottom of my trunk and left the other where no one will find it. I couldn't read the story, and try to forget that I ever wrote it.
Blois is a noisy, dusty, soldierly city with nothing to admire but the river, nearly dry now with this four months' drought, and the old castle where Francis I., Louis XII., Catherine de Medicis, and other great folks lived. It has been very splendidly restored by the Government, and the ceilings are made with beams blazoned with coats-of-arms, the walls hung with cameos, painted with the same design as the stamped leather in old times, and the floors inlaid with colored tiles. Brown and gold, scarlet, blue, and silver, quaint dragons and flowers, porcupines and salamanders, crowns and letters, glittered everywhere. We saw the guard-room and the very chimney where the Duc de Guise was leaning when the king Henry III. sent for him; the little door where the king's gentlemen fell upon and stabbed him with forty wounds; the cabinet where the king and his mother plotted the deed; the chapel where the monks prayed for success; and the great hall where the body lay covered with a cloak till the king came and looked at it and kicked his dead enemy, saying, "I did not think he was so tall." We also saw the cell where the brother of the duke was murdered the next day, and the attic entire where their bodies were burnt, after which the ashes were thrown into the Loire by order of the king; the window out of which Marie de Medicis lowered herself when her son Louis XIII. imprisoned her there; the recess where Catherine de Medicis died; and many other interesting places. What a set of rascals these old kings and queens were! 237
The Salle des États was very gorgeous, and here in a week or so are to be tried the men who lately fired at the Emperor. It will be a grand, a fine sight when the great arched hall is full. I got a picture of the castle, and one of a fireplace for Pa. It is a mass of gold and color, with the porcupine of Louis XIII. and the ermine of his wife Anne of Brittany, their arms, in medallion over it.
At 5 p.m. we go on to Orleans for a day, where I shall get some relics of Joan of Arc for Nan. We shall pass Sunday at Bourges where the great church is, and then either to Geneva or the Jura, for a few weeks of rest.
Geneva, June 29, 1870.
It seems almost like getting home again to be here where I never thought to come again when I went away five years ago. We are at the Metropole Hotel right on the lake with a glimpse of Mount Blanc from our windows. It is rather fine after the grimy little inns of Brittany, and we enjoy a sip of luxury and put on our best gowns with feminine satisfaction after living in old travelling suits for a fortnight.
I began my letter at Blois, where we spent a day or two. At Orleans we only passed a night, but we had time to see the famous statue of the Maid, put up in gratitude by the people of the city she saved. It is a fine statue of Joan in her armor on horseback, with her sword drawn. Round the base of the statue are bronzed bas-reliefs of her life from the girl with her sheep, to the martyr at the stake. They were very fine, but don't show much in the photograph which I got for Nan, remembering the time when she translated Schiller's play for me.
At Bourges we saw the great cathedral, but didn't like it as well as that in Tours. We only spent a night there, and A. bought an antique ring of the time of 238 Francis I.,–an emerald set in diamonds. It cost $9, and is very quaint and handsome.
Moulins we reached Sunday noon, and at 3 o'clock went to vespers in the old church, where we saw a good deal of mumbo-jumbo by red, purple, and yellow priests, and heard a boy with a lovely voice sing in the hidden choir like a little angel among the clouds. A. had a fancy to stay a week, if we could find rooms out of town in some farm-house; for the handsome white cattle have captivated her, and we were rather tired. So the old lady at the hotel said she had a little farm-house out in the fields, and we should go see it with her in basket chay. After dinner we all piled in and went along a dusty road to a little dirty garden-house with two rooms and a few cabbages and rose-bushes round it. She said we could sleep and eat at the hotel and come down here for the day. That didn't suit at all, so we declined; and on Monday morning we set out for Lyons. It was a very interesting trip under, over, and through the mountains with two engines and much tunnelling and up-and-down grading. May was greatly excited at the queer things we did, and never knew that cars could turn such sharp corners. We wound about so that we could see the engine whisking out of sight round one corner while we were turning another, and the long train looked like a snake winding through the hills. The tunnels were so long that lamps were lighted, and so cold we put on our sacks while passing in the darkness. The scenery was very fine; and after we left Lyons, where we merely slept, the Alps began to appear, and May and I stared in blissful silence; for we had two tall old men opposite, and a little priest, so young that we called him the Rev. boy. He slept and said his prayers most of the time, stealing sly looks at May's hair, A.'s pretty hands, and my buckled 239 shoes, which were like his own and seemed to strike him as a liberty on my part. The old boys were very jolly, especially the one with three chins, who smiled paternally upon us and tried to talk. But we were very English and mum, and he thought we didn't understand French, and confided to his friend that he didn't see "how the English could travel and know not the French tongue." They sang, gabbled, slept, and slapped one another at intervals, and were very amusing till they left, and another very handsome Booth-like priest took their places.
To her Father.
Bex, July 14, 1870.
Dear Pa,–As I have not written to you yet, I will send you a picture-letter and tell you about the very interesting old Count Sz– who is here. This morning he asked us to go to the hills and see some curious trees which he says were planted from acorns and nuts brought from Mexico by Atala. We found some very ancient oaks and chestnuts, and the enthusiastic old man told us the story about the Druids who once had a church, amphitheatre, and sacrificial altar up there. No one knows much about it, and he imagines a good deal to suit his own pet theory. You would have liked to hear him hold forth about the races and Zoroaster, Plato, etc. He is a Hungarian of a very old family, descended from Semiramide and Zenobia. He believes that the body can be cured often by influencing the soul, and that doctors should be priests, and priests doctors, as the two affect the body and soul which depend on one another. He is doing a great deal for Miss W., who has tried many doctors and got no help. I never saw such a kindly, simple, enthusiastic, old soul, for at sixty-seven he is as full of hope and faith and good-will as a young man. I told him I 240 should like my father to see a little book he has written, and he is going to give me one.
We like this quiet little place among the mountains, and pass lazy days; for it is very warm, and we sit about on our balconies enjoying the soft air, the moonlight, and the changing aspect of the hills.
May had a fine exciting time going up St. Bernard, and is now ready for another....
The Polish Countess and her daughter have been reading my books and are charmed with them. Madame says she is not obliged to turn down any pages so that the girls may not read them, as she does in many books, "All is so true, so sweet, so pious, she may read every word."
I send by this mail the count's little pamphlet. I don't know as it amounts to much, but I thought you might like to see it.
Love to every one, and write often to your
L. M. A.
Bex, July 18, 1870.
Dear People,–The breaking out of this silly little war between France and Prussia will play the deuce with our letters. I have had none from you for a long time; and Alexandre, the English waiter here, says that the mails will be left to come as they can, for the railroads are all devoted to carrying troops to the seat of war. The French have already crossed the Rhine, and rumors of a battle came last eve; but the papers have not arrived, and no letters for any one, so all are fuming for news, public and private, and I am howling for my home letter, which is more important than all the papers on the continent....
Don't be worried if you don't hear regularly, or think us in danger. Switzerland is out of the mess, and if she 241 gets in, we can skip over into Italy, and be as cosey as possible. It will make some difference in money, perhaps, as Munroe in Paris is our banker, and we shall be plagued about our letters, otherwise the war won't effect us a bit; I dare say you know as much about it as we do, and Marmee is predicting "a civil war" all over the world. We hear accounts of the frightful heat with you. Don't wilt away before we come....
Lady Amberley is a trump, and I am glad she says a word for her poor sex though she is a peeress....
I should like to have said of me what Hedge says of Dickens; and when I die, I should prefer such a memory rather than a tomb in Westminster Abbey.
I hope to have a good letter from Nan soon. May does the descriptions so well that I don't try it, being lazy.
Sunday, July 24, 1870.
... The war along the Rhine is sending troops of travellers to Switzerland for refuge; and all the large towns are brimful of people flying from Germany. It won't trouble us, for we have done France and don't mean to do Germany. So when August is over, we shall trot forward to Italy, and find a warm place for our winter-quarters. At any time twenty-four hours carries us over the Simplon, so we sit at ease and don't care a straw for old France and Prussia. Russia, it is reported, has joined in the fight, but Italy and England are not going to meddle, so we can fly to either "in case of fire."
Bex, July 27, 1870.
We heard of Dickens's death some weeks ago and have been reading notices, etc., in all the papers since. One by G. Greenwood in the Tribune was very nice. I shall miss my old Charlie, but he is not the old idol he once was....
Did you know that Higginson and a little girl friend had written out the Operatic Tragedy in "Little Women" and set the songs to music and it was all to be put in "Our Young Folks." What are we coming to in our old age? Also I hope to see the next designs N. has got for "Little Women." I know nothing about them.
To her Mother.
3 p.m., Bex, July 31, 1870.
Papers are suppressed by the Government so we know nothing about the war, except the rumors that float about. But people seem to think that Europe is in for a general fight, and there is no guessing when it will end.
The trouble about getting into Italy is, that civil war always breaks out there and things are so mixed up that strangers get into scrapes among the different squabblers. When the P.'s were abroad during the last Italian fuss, they got shut up in some little city and would have been killed by Austrians, who were rampaging round the place drunk and mad, if a woman had not hid them in a closet for a day and night, and smuggled them out at last, when they ran for their lives. I don't mean to get into any mess, and between Switzerland and England we can manage for a winter. London is so near home and so home-like that we shall be quite handy and can run up to Boston at any time. Perhaps Pa will step across to see us.
All these plans may be knocked in the head to-morrow and my next letter may be dated from the Pope's 243 best parlor or Windsor Castle; but I like to spin about on ups and downs so you can have something to talk about at Apple Slump. Uncertainty gives a relish to things, so we chase about and have a dozen plans a day. It is an Alcott failing you know....
Love to all and bless you,
Bex, Aug. 7, 1870.
Dear Mr. Niles,–I keep receiving requests from editors to write for their papers and magazines. I am truly grateful, but having come abroad for rest I am not inclined to try the treadmill till my year's vacation is over. So to appease these worthy gentlemen and excuse my seeming idleness I send you a trifle in rhyme, which you can (if you think it worth the trouble) set going as a general answer to everybody; for I can't pay postage in replies to each separately,–"it's very costly." Mr. F. said he would pay me $10, $15, $20 for any little things I would send him; so perhaps you will let him have it first.
The war makes the bankers take double toll on our money, so we feel very poor and as if we ought to be earning, not spending; only we are so lazy we can't bear to think of it in earnest....
We shall probably go to London next month if the war forbids Italy for the winter; and if we can't get one dollar without paying five for it, we shall come home disgusted.
Perhaps if I can do nothing else this year I could have a book of short stories, old and new, for Christmas. F. and F. have some good ones, and I have the right to use them. We could call them "Jo March's Necessity 244 Stories." Would it go with new ones added and good illustrations?
I am rising from my ashes in a most phœnix-like manner.
L. M. A.
To her Mother.
Vevay, Pension Paradis, Aug. 11, 1870.
Dear Marmee,–.... This house is very cosey, and the food excellent. I thought it would be when I heard gentlemen liked it,–they always want good fodder. There are only three now,–an old Spaniard and his son, and a young Frenchman. We see them at meals, and the girls play croquet with them....
This is the gay season here, and in spite of the war Vevay is full. The ex-Queen of Spain and her family are here at the Grand Hotel; also Don Carlos, the rightful heir to the Spanish throne. Our landlady says that her house used to be full of Spaniards, who every day went in crowds to call on the two kings, Alphonse and Carlos. We see brown men and women with black eyes driving round in fine coaches, with servants in livery, who I suppose are the Court people.
The papers tell us that the French have lost two big battles; the Prussians are in Strasbourg, and Paris in a state of siege. The papers are also full of theatrical messages from the French to the people, asking them to come up and be slaughtered for la patrie, and sober, cool reports from the Prussians. I side with the Prussians, for they sympathized with us in our war. Hooray for old Pruss!...
France is having a bad time. Princess Clotilde passed through Geneva the other day with loads of baggage, flying to Italy; and last week a closed car with the imperial arms on it went by here in the night,–supposed to be Matilde 245 and other royal folks flying away from Paris. The Prince Imperial has been sent home from the seat of war; and poor Eugénie is doing her best to keep things quiet in Paris. The French here say that a republic is already talked of; and the Emperor is on his last legs in every way. He is sick, and his doctor won't let him ride, and so nervous he can't command the army as he wanted to. Poor old man! one can't help pitying him when all his plans fail.
We still dawdle along, getting fat and hearty. The food is excellent. A breakfast of coffee and tip-top bread, fresh butter, with eggs or fried potatoes, at 8; a real French dinner at 1.30, of soup, fish, meat, game, salad, sweet messes, and fruit, with wine; and at 7 cold meat, salad, sauce, tea, and bread and butter. It is grape time now, and for a few cents we get pounds, on which we feast all day at intervals. We walk and play as well as any one, and feel so well I ought to do something....
Fred and Jack would like to look out of my window now and see the little boys playing in the lake. They are there all day long like little pigs, and lie around on the warm stones to dry, splashing one another for exercise. One boy, having washed himself, is now washing his clothes, and all lying out to dry together....
Vevay, Aug. 21, 1870.
I had such a droll dream last night I must tell you. I thought I was returning to Concord after my trip, and was alone. As I walked from the station I missed Mr. Moore's house, and turning the corner, found the scene so changed that I did not know where I was. Our house was gone, and in its place stood a great gray stone castle, 246 with towers and arches and lawns and bridges, very fine and antique. Somehow I got into it without meeting any one of you, and wandered about trying to find my family. At last I came across Mr. Moore, papering a room, and asked him where his house was. He didn't know me, and said,–
"Oh! I sold it to Mr. Alcott for his school, and we live in Acton now."
"Where did Mr. Alcott get the means to build this great concern?" I asked.
"Well, he gave his own land, and took the great pasture his daughter left him,–the one that died some ten years ago."
"So I am dead, am I?" says I to myself, feeling so queerly.
"Government helped build this place, and Mr. A. has a fine college here," said Mr. Moore, papering away again.
I went on, wondering at the news, and looked into a glass to see how I looked dead. I found myself a fat old lady, with gray hair and specs,–very like E. P. P. I laughed, and coming to a Gothic window, looked out and saw hundreds of young men and boys in a queer flowing dress, roaming about the parks and lawns; and among them was Pa, looking as he looked thirty years ago, with brown hair and a big white neckcloth, as in the old times. He looked so plump and placid and young and happy I was charmed to see him, and nodded; but he didn't know me; and I was so grieved and troubled at being a Rip Van Winkle, I cried, and said I had better go away and not disturb any one,–and in the midst of my woe, I woke up. It was all so clear and funny, I can't help thinking that it may be a foreshadowing of something real. I used to dream of being famous, and it has partly become true; so why not Pa's college blossom, and he 247 get young and happy with his disciples? I only hope he won't quite forget me when I come back, fat and gray and old. Perhaps his dream is to come in another world, where everything is fresh and calm, and the reason why he didn't recognize me was because I was still in this work-a-day world, and so felt old and strange in this lovely castle in the air. Well, he is welcome to my fortune; but the daughter who did die ten years ago is more likely to be the one who helped him build his School of Concord up aloft.
I can see how the dream came; for I had been looking at Silling's boys in their fine garden, and wishing I could go in and know the dear little lads walking about there, in the forenoon. I had got a topknot at the barber's, and talked about my gray hairs, and looking in the glass thought how fat and old I was getting, and had shown the B.'s Pa's picture, which they thought saintly, etc. I believe in dreams, though I am free to confess that "cowcumbers" for tea may have been the basis of this "ally-gorry-cal wision."...
As we know the Consul at Spezzia,–that is, we have letters to him, as well as to many folks in Rome, etc.,–I guess we shall go; for the danger of Europe getting into the fight is over now, and we can sail to England or home any time from Italy.... Love to every one.
Kiss my cousin for me.
To Mr. Niles.
August 23, 1870.
Your note of August 2 has just come, with a fine budget of magazines and a paper, for all of which many thanks.
Don't give my address to any one. I don't want the young ladies' notes. They can send them to Concord, and I shall get them next year.
The boys at Silling's school are a perpetual source of delight to me; and I stand at the gate, like the Peri, longing to go in and play with the lads. The young ladies who want to find live Lauries can be supplied here, for Silling has a large assortment always on hand.
My B. says she is constantly trying to incite me to literary effort, but I hang fire. So I do,–but only that I may go off with a bang by and by, à la mitrailleuse.
L. M. A.
To her Family.
Vevay, Aug. 29, 1870.
Dear People,–... M. Nicaud, the owner of this house,–a funny old man, with a face so like a parrot that we call him M. Perrot,–asked us to come and visit him at his châlet up among the hills. He is building a barn there, and stays to see that all goes well; so we only see him on Sundays, when he convulses us by his funny ways. Last week seven of us went up in a big landau, and the old dear entertained us like a prince. We left the carriage at the foot of a little steep path, and climbed up to the dearest old châlet we ever saw. Here Pa Nicaud met us, took us up the outside steps into his queer little salon, and regaled us with his sixty-year old wine and nice little cakes. We then set forth, in spite of clouds and wind, to view the farm and wood. It showered at intervals, but no one seemed to care; so we trotted about under umbrellas, getting mushrooms, flowers, and colds, viewing the Tarpeian Rock, and sitting on rustic seats to enjoy 249 the belle vue, which consisted of fog. It was such a droll lark that we laughed and ran, and enjoyed the damp picnic very much. Then we had a tip-top Swiss dinner, followed by coffee, three sorts of wine, and cigars. Every one smoked, and as it poured guns, the old Perrot had a blazing fire made, round which we sat, talking many languages, singing, and revelling. We had hardly got through dinner and seen another foggy view when tea was announced, and we stuffed again, having pitchers of cream, fruit, and a queer but very nice dish of slices of light bread dipped in egg and fried, and eaten with sugar. The buxom Swiss maid flew and grinned, and kept serving up some new mess from her tiny dark kitchen. It cleared off, and we walked home in spite of our immense exploits in the eating line. Old Perrot escorted us part way down, and we gave three cheers for him as we parted. Then we showed Madame and the French governess and Don Juan (the Spanish boy) some tall walking, though the roads were very steep and rough and muddy. We tramped some five miles; and our party (May, A., the governess, and I) got home long before Madame and Don Juan, who took a short cut, and wouldn't believe that we didn't get a lift somehow. I felt quite proud of my old pins; for they were not tired, and none the worse for the long walk. I think they are really all right now, for the late cold weather has not troubled them in the least; and I sleep–O ye gods, how I do sleep!–ten or twelve hours sound, and get up so drunk with dizziness it is lovely to see. Aint I grateful? Oh, yes! oh, yes!
We began French lessons to-day, May and I, of the French governess,–a kind old girl who only asks two francs a lesson. We must speak the language, for it is disgraceful to be so stupid; so we have got to work, and mean to be able to parlez-vous or die. The war is still 250 a nuisance, and we may be here some time, and really need some work; for we are so lazy we shall be spoilt, if we don't fall to....
I gave Count C. Pa's message, and he was pleased. He reads no English, and is going to Hungary soon; so Pa had better not send the book....
Vevay, Sept. 10, 1870.
Dear People,–As all Europe seems to be going to destruction, I hasten to drop a line before the grand smash arrives. We mean to skip over the Alps next week, if weather and war permit; for we are bound to see Milan and the lakes, even if we have to turn and come back without a glimpse of Rome. The Pope is beginning to perk up; and Italy and England and Russia seem ready to join in the war, now that France is down. Think of Paris being bombarded and smashed up like Strasbourg. We never shall see the grand old cathedral at Strasbourg now, it is so spoilt.
Vevay is crammed with refugees from Paris and Strasbourg. Ten families applied here yesterday....
Our house is brimful, and we have funny times. The sick Russian lady and her old Ma make a great fuss if a breath of air comes in at meal times, and expect twenty people to sit shut tight in a smallish room for an hour on a hot day. We protested, and Madame put them in the parlor, where they glower as we pass, and lock the door when they can. The German Professor is learning English, and is a quiet, pleasant man. The Polish General, a little cracked, is very droll, and bursts out in the middle of the general chat with stories about transparent apples and golden horses.... Benda, the crack book-and-picture man, has asked May if she was the Miss Alcott who wrote the popular books; for he said he had many calls 251 for them, and wished to know where they could be found. We told him "at London," and felt puffed up....
May and I delve away at French; but it makes my head ache, and I don't learn enough to pay for the trouble. I never could study, you know, and suffer such agony when I try that it is piteous to behold. The little brains I have left I want to keep for future works, and not exhaust them on grammar,–vile invention of Satan! May gets on slowly, and don't have fits after it; so she had better go on (the lessons only cost two francs)....
L. M. A.
To her Mother.
Lago di Como, Oct. 8, 1870.
Dearest Marmee,–A happy birthday, and many of 'em! Here we actually are in the long-desired Italy, and find it as lovely as we hoped. Our journey was a perfect success,–sunlight, moonlight, magnificent scenery, pleasant company, no mishaps, and one long series of beautiful pictures all the way.
Crossing the Simplon is an experience worth having; for without any real danger, fatigue, or hardship, one sees some of the finest as well as most awful parts of these wonderful Alps.
The road,–a miracle in itself! for all Nature seems to protest against it, and the elements never tire of trying to destroy it. Only a Napoleon would have dreamed of making a path through such a place; and he only cared for it as a way to get his men and cannon into an enemy's country by this truly royal road.
May has told you about our trip; so I will only add a few bits that she forgot.
Our start in the dawn from Brieg, with two diligences, a carriage, and a cart, was something between a funeral 252 and a caravan: first an immense diligence with seven horses, then a smaller one with four, then our calèche with two, and finally the carrier's cart with one. It was very exciting,–the general gathering of sleepy travellers in the dark square, the tramping of horses, the packing in, the grand stir of getting off; then the slow winding up, up, up out of the valley toward the sun, which came slowly over the great hills, rising as we never saw it rise before. The still, damp pine-forests kept us in shadow a long time after the white mountain-tops began to shine. Little by little we wound through a great gorge, and then the sun came dazzling between these grand hills, showing us a new world. Peak after peak of the Bernese Oberland rose behind us, and great white glaciers lay before us; while the road crept like a narrow line, in and out over chasms that made us dizzy to look at, under tunnels, and through stone galleries with windows over which dashed waterfalls from the glaciers above. Here and there were refuges, a hospice, and a few châlets, where shepherds live their wild, lonely lives. In the p.m. we drove rapidly down toward Italy through the great Valley of Gondo,–a deep rift in rock thousands of feet deep, and just wide enough for the road and a wild stream that was our guide; a never-to-be-forgotten place, and a fit gateway to Italy, which soon lay smiling below us. The change is very striking; and when we came to Lago Maggiore lying in the moonlight we could only sigh for happiness, and love and look and look. After a good night's rest at Stresa, we went in a charming gondola-sort of boat to see Isola Bella,–the island you see in the chromo over the fireplace at home,–a lovely island, with famous castle, garden, and town on it. The day was as balmy as summer, and we felt like butterflies after a frost, and fluttered about, enjoying the sunshine all day. 253
A sail by steamer brought us to Luino, where we went on the diligence to Lugano. Moonlight all the way, and a gay driver, who wound his horn as we clattered into market-places and over bridges in the most gallant style. The girls were on top, and in a state of rapture all the way. After supper in a vaulted, frescoed hall, with marble floors, pillars, and galleries, we went to a room which had green doors, red carpet, blue walls, and yellow bed-covers,–all so gay! It was like sleeping in a rainbow.
As if a heavenly lake under our windows with moonlight ad libitum wasn't enough, we had music next door; and on leaning out of a little back window, we made the splendid discovery that we could look on to the stage of the opera-house across a little alley. My Nan can imagine with what rapture I stared at the scenes going on below me, and how I longed for her as I stood there wrapped in my yellow bed-quilt, and saw gallant knights in armor warble sweetly to plump ladies in masks, or pretty peasants fly wildly from ardent lovers in red tights; also a dishevelled maid who tore her hair in a forest, while a man aloft made thunder and lightning,–and I saw him do it!
It was the climax to a splendid day; for few travellers can go to the opera luxuriously in their night-gowns, and take naps between the acts as I did.
A lovely sail next morning down the lake; then a carriage to Menaggio; and then a droll boat, like a big covered market-wagon with a table and red-cushioned seats, took us and our trunks to Cadenabbia, for there is only a donkey road to the little town. At the hotel on the edge of the lake we found Nelly L., a sweet girl as lovely as Minnie, and so glad to see us; for since her mother died in Venice last year she has lived alone with her maid. She had waited for us, and next day went to 254 Milan, where we join her on Monday. She paints; and May and she made plans at once to study together, and enjoy some of the free art-schools at Milan and Naples or Florence, if we can all be together. It is a great chance for May, and I mean she shall have a good time, and not wait for tools and teachers; for all is in the way of her profession, and of use to her.
Cadenabbia is only two hotels and a few villas opposite Bellagio, which is a town, and fashionable. We were rowed over to see it by our boatman, who spends his time at the front of the stone steps before the hotel, and whenever we go out he tells us, "The lake is tranquil; the hour is come for a walk on the water," and is as coaxing as only an Italian can be. He is amiably tipsy most of the time.
To-day it rains so we cannot go out, and I rest and write to my Marmee in a funny room with a stone floor inlaid till it looks like castile soap, a ceiling in fat cupids and trumpeting fairies, a window on the lake, with balcony, etc. Hand-organs with jolly singing boys jingle all day, and two big bears go by led by a man with a drum. The boys would laugh to see them dance on their hind legs, and shoulder sticks like soldiers.
... All looks well, and if the winter goes on rapidly and pleasantly as the summer we shall soon be thinking of home, unless one of us decides to stay. I shall post this at Milan to-morrow, and hope to find letters there from you. By-by till then.
October, 1870.–A memorable month.... Off for Italy on the 2d. A splendid journey over the Alps and Maggiore by moonlight. 255
Heavenly days at the lakes, and so to Milan, Parma, Pisa, Bologna, and Florence. Disappointed in some things, but found Nature always lovely and wonderful; so didn't mind faded pictures, damp rooms, and the cold winds of "sunny Italy." Bought furs at Florence, and arrived in Rome one rainy night.
November 10th.–In Rome, and felt as if I had been there before and knew all about it. Always oppressed with a sense of sin, dirt, and general decay of all things. Not well; so saw things through blue glasses. May in bliss with lessons, sketching, and her dreams. A. had society, her house, and old friends. The artists were the best company; counts and princes very dull, what we saw of them. May and I went off on the Campagna, and criticised all the world like two audacious Yankees.
Our apartment in Piazza Barbarini was warm and cosey; and I thanked Heaven for it, as it rained for two months, and my first view most of the time was the poor Triton with an icicle on his nose.
We pay $60 a month for six good rooms, and $6 a month for a girl, who cooks and takes care of us.
29th.–My thirty-eighth birthday. May gave me a pretty sketch, and A. a fine nosegay.
In Rome Miss Alcott was shocked and grieved by the news of the death of her well-beloved brother-in-law, Mr. Pratt. She has drawn so beautiful a picture of him in "Little Women" and in "Little Men," that it is hardly needful to dwell upon his character or the grief which his death caused her. With her usual care for others, her thoughts at once turned to the support of the surviving family, and she found comfort in writing "Little Men" 256 with the thought of the dear sister and nephews constantly in her heart.
In spite of this great sorrow and anxiety for the dear ones at home, the year of travel was very refreshing to her. Her companions were congenial, she took great delight in her sister's work, and she was independent in her plans, and could go whither and when she would.
The voyage home was a hard one; there was small-pox on board, but Miss Alcott fortunately escaped the infection. "Little Men" was out the day she arrived, as a bright red placard in the carriage announced, and besides all the loving welcomes from family and friends, she received the pleasing news that fifty thousand of the books were already sold.
But the old pains and weariness came home with her also. She could not stay in Concord, and went again to Boston, hoping to rest and work. Her young sister came home to brighten up the family with her hopeful, helpful spirit.
At forty years of age Louisa had accomplished the task she set for herself in youth. By unceasing toil she had made herself and her family independent; debts were all paid, and enough was invested to preserve them from want. And yet wants seemed to increase with their satisfaction, and she felt impelled to work enough to give to all the enjoyments and luxuries which were fitted to them after the necessaries were provided for. It may be that her own exhausted nervous condition made it impossible for her to rest, and the demand which she fancied came from without was the projection of her own thought. 257
1871.–Rome.–Great inundation. Streets flooded, churches with four feet of water in them, and queer times for those who were in the overflowed quarters. Meals hoisted up at the window; people carried across the river-like streets to make calls; and all manner of funny doings. We were high and dry at Piazza Barbarini, and enjoyed the flurry.
To the Capitol often, to spend the a.m. with the Roman emperors and other great men. M. Aurelius as a boy was fine; Cicero looked very like W. Phillips; Agrippina in her chair was charming; but the other ladies, with hair à la sponge, were ugly; Nero & Co. a set of brutes and bad men. But a better sight to me was the crowd of poor people going to get the bread and money sent by the king; and the splendid snow-covered hills were finer than the marble beauty inside. Art tires; Nature never.
Professor Pierce and his party just from Sicily, where they had been to see the eclipse,–all beaming with delight, and well repaid for the long journey by a two minutes' squint at the sun when darkest.
Began to write a new book, "Little Men," that John's death may not leave A. and the dear little boys in want. John took care that they should have enough while the boys are young, and worked very hard to have a little sum to leave, without a debt anywhere.
In writing and thinking of the little lads, to whom I must be a father now, I found comfort for my sorrow. May went on with her lessons, "learning," as she wisely said, how little she knew and how to go on.
February.–A gay month in Rome, with the carnival, artists' fancy ball, many parties, and much calling. 258
Decided to leave May for another year, as L. sends $700 on "Moods," and the new book will provide $1,000 for the dear girl; so she may be happy and free to follow her talent.
March.–Spent at Albano. A lovely place. Walk, write, and rest. A troop of handsome officers from Turin, who clatter by, casting soft glances at my two blonde signorinas, who enjoy it very much. Baron and Baroness Rothschild were there, and the W.'s from Philadelphia, Dr. O. W. and wife, and S. B. Mrs. W. and A. B. talk all day, May sketches, I write, and so we go on. Went to look at rooms at the Bonapartes.
April.–Venice. Floated about for two weeks seeing sights. A lovely city for a short visit. Not enough going on to suit brisk Americans. May painted, A. hunted up old jewelry and friends, and I dawdled after them.
A very interesting trip to London,–over the Brenner Pass to Munich, Cologne, Antwerp, and by boat to London.
May.–A busy month. Settled in lodgings, Brompton Road, and went sight-seeing. Mrs. P. Taylor, Conway, and others very kind. Enjoyed showing May my favorite places and people.
A. B. went home on the 11th, after a pleasant year with us. I am glad to know her, for she is true and very interesting. May took lessons of Rowbotham and was happy. "Little Men" came out in London.
I decided to go home on the 25th, as I am needed. A very pleasant year in spite of constant pain, John's death, and home anxieties. Very glad I came, for May's sake. It has been a very useful year for her.
June.–After an anxious passage of twelve days, got safely home. Small-pox on board, and my room-mate, 259 Miss D., very ill. I escaped, but had a sober time lying next door to her, waiting to see if my turn was to come. She was left at the island, and I went up the harbor with Judge Russell, who took some of us off in his tug.
Father and T. N. came to meet me with a great red placard of "Little Men" pinned up in the carriage. After due precautions, hurried home and found all well. My room refurnished and much adorned by Father's earnings.
Nan well and calm, but under her sweet serenity is a very sad soul, and she mourns for her mate like a tender turtle-dove.
The boys were tall, bright lads, devoted to Marmee, and the life of the house.
Mother feeble and much aged by this year of trouble. I shall never go far away from her again. Much company, and loads of letters, all full of good wishes and welcome.
"Little Men" was out the day I arrived. Fifty thousand sold before it was out.
A happy month, for I felt well for the first time in two years. I knew it wouldn't last, but enjoyed it heartily while it did, and was grateful for rest from pain and a touch of the old cheerfulness. It was much needed at home.
July, August, September.–Sick. Holiday soon over. Too much company and care and change of climate upset the poor nerves again. Dear Uncle S. J. May died; our best friend for years. Peace to his ashes. He leaves a sweeter memory behind him than any man I know. Poor Marmee is the last of her family now.
October.–Decided to go to B.; Concord is so hard for me, with its dampness and worry. Get two girls to 260 do the work, and leave plenty of money and go to Beacon Street to rest and try to get well that I may work. A lazy life, but it seemed to suit; and anything is better than the invalidism I hate worse than death.
Bones ached less, and I gave up morphine, as sunshine, air, and quiet made sleep possible without it. Saw people, pictures, plays, and read all I could, but did not enjoy much, for the dreadful weariness of nerves makes even pleasure hard.
November.–May sent pleasant letters and some fine copies of Turner. She decides to come home, as she feels she is needed as I give out. Marmee is feeble, Nan has her boys and her sorrow, and one strong head and hand is wanted at home. A year and a half of holiday is a good deal, and duty comes first always. Sorry to call her back, but her eyes are troublesome, and housework will rest them and set her up. Then she can go again when I am better, for I don't want her to be thwarted in her work more than just enough to make her want it very much.
On the 19th she came. Well, happy, and full of sensible plans. A lively time enjoying the cheerful element she always brings into the house. Piles of pictures, merry adventures, and interesting tales of the fine London lovers.
Kept my thirty-ninth and Father's seventy-second birthday in the old way.
Thanksgiving dinner at Pratt Farm. All well and all together. Much to give thanks for.
December.–Enjoyed my quiet, sunny room very much; and this lazy life seems to suit me, for I am better, mind and body. All goes well at home, with May to run the machine in her cheery, energetic style, and amuse Marmee and Nan with gay histories. Had a 261 furnace put in, and all enjoyed the new climate. No more rheumatic fevers and colds, with picturesque open fires. Mother is to be cosey if money can do it. She seems to be now, and my long-cherished dream has come true; for she sits in a pleasant room, with no work, no care, no poverty to worry, but peace and comfort all about her, and children glad and able to stand between trouble and her. Thank the Lord! I like to stop and "remember my mercies." Working and waiting for them makes them very welcome.
Went to the ball for the Grand Duke Alexis. A fine sight, and the big blonde boy the best of all. Would dance with the pretty girls, and leave the Boston dowagers and their diamonds in the lurch.
To the Radical Club, where the philosophers mount their hobbies and prance away into time and space, while we gaze after them and try to look wise.
A merry Christmas at home. Tree for the boys, family dinner, and frolic in the evening.
A varied, but on the whole a good year, in spite of pain. Last Christmas we were in Rome, mourning for John. What will next Christmas bring forth? I have no ambition now but to keep the family comfortable and not ache any more. Pain has taught me patience, I hope, if nothing more.
January, 1872.–Roberts Brothers paid $4,400 as six months' receipts for the books. A fine New Year's gift. S. E. S. invested $3,000, and the rest I put in the bank for family needs. Paid for the furnace and all the bills. What bliss it is to be able to do that and ask no help!
Mysterious bouquets came from some unknown admirer or friend. Enjoyed them very much, and felt quite grateful and romantic as day after day the lovely 262 great nosegays were handed in by the servant of the unknown.
February and March.–At Mrs. Stowe's desire, wrote for the "Christian Union" an account of our journey through France, and called it "Shawl Straps."... Many calls and letters and invitations, but I kept quiet, health being too precious to risk, and sleep still hard to get for the brain that would work instead of rest.
Heard lectures,–Higginson, Bartol, Frothingham, and Rabbi Lilienthal. Much talk about religion. I'd like to see a little more really lived.
April and May.–Wrote another sketch for the "Independent,"–"A French Wedding;" and the events of my travels paid my winter's expenses. All is fish that comes to the literary net. Goethe puts his joys and sorrows into poems; I turn my adventures into bread and butter.
June, 1872.–Home, and begin a new task. Twenty years ago I resolved to make the family independent if I could. At forty that is done. Debts all paid, even the outlawed ones, and we have enough to be comfortable. It has cost me my health, perhaps; but as I still live, there is more for me to do, I suppose.
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