MY PRAYER.(Written October, 1886.)
Courage and patience, these I ask, Dear Lord, in this my latest strait; For hard I find my ten years' task, Learning to suffer and to wait. Life seems so rich and grand a thing, So full of work for heart and brain, It is a cross that I can bring No help, no offering, but pain. The hard-earned harvest of these years I long to generously share; The lessons learned with bitter tears To teach again with tender care; To smooth the rough and thorny way Where other feet begin to tread; To feed some hungry soul each day With sympathy's sustaining bread. So beautiful such pleasures show, I long to make them mine; To love and labor and to know The joy such living makes divine. But if I may not, I will only ask Courage and patience for my fate, And learn, dear Lord, thy latest task,– To suffer patiently and wait.
THE early part of the year 1880 was in the deep shadow of sadness, from the death of Louisa's sister. Boxes full of May's pictures, clothes, and books came home to call up anew all the memories of the bright spirit who had blossomed into such beautiful life so quickly to fade away.
Miss Alcott tried to rise above her grief and busy herself with new interests. She took an active part in the voting of the women in Concord, and rejoiced in the election of a good school committee. In April she returned to her old rooms at the Bellevue, where she busied herself with dramatizing "Michael Strogoff," which she never completed. She kept up her interest in young girls, and received with pleasure a visit from thirty pupils of the Boston University, and she helped to give the children of the North End Mission a happy day at Walden Pond. She went to York for rest and refreshment during the summer. Her heart was filled with longing for the child, and everything was done with reference to its coming.
As September brought cooler weather, over the sea came the little babe to the warm hearts that were longing to welcome her. No woman as true and loving as Louisa Alcott but has the mother-nature strong in her heart; and she could not help feeling a new spring of love and life when the child of one so dear was put into her arms to be her very own. Rosy and healthy, full of life and energy,–not a model of sainthood, but a real human nature, with a will to be regulated, not broken, with impulses to be trained, talents and tendencies to be studied, 331 and a true, loving heart to be filled with joy,–Louisa found the child a constant source of interest and pleasure. She brought her up as she herself had been trained,–more by influences than by rules,–and sought to follow the leadings which she found in the young nature rather than to make it over after a plan of her own. This new care and joy helped to fill up the void in her life from the loss of the mother for whom she had worked so faithfully and the pet sister to whom she had ever been a good providence.
The principal interest of the next few years was the care of this child. It was a pleasant occupation to Louisa, occupying her heart, and binding her with new ties to younger generations. The journal tells all the simple story of the "voyage across the seas."
Miss Alcott was very attractive to children, especially to the little ones, who thronged about her and pleaded for stories; but this was the first one who ever really filled the mother-longing in her heart. She was now truly a "marmee;" and remembering the blessing which her own mother had been to her, her standard of motherhood must have been very high. Much care was now also given to her father, and she speaks with pride of her handsome old philosopher in his new suit of clothes.
Miss Alcott was gratified by a visit from one of the men to whom she had spoken at Concord Prison. He told her his story, and she assisted him to find work, and had the satisfaction of hearing of his well-doing. 332
There is little record of writing done at this period, Louisa's time and thoughts being absorbed by the child. In the autumn of 1881 she wrote a preface to a new edition of the "Prayers of Theodore Parker," and also one to the new edition of "Moods."
Louisa kept the birthdays of November, though with saddened heart. She wrote a tale for the Soldiers' Home,–"My Red Cap," in "Proverb Stories,"–and another for the New England Hospital fair,–"A Baby's Birthday;" and also one for her old publisher. Such was the feeling toward her as a universal benefactor, that a poor woman wrote her begging her to send some Christmas gifts to her children, as they had asked her to write to Santa Claus for some. With Lulu's help she got up a box for the poor family, and then made a story out of the incident, for which she received a hundred dollars.
A new project was that of a temperance society, which was felt to be needed in Concord.
Louisa occupied herself much in looking over her mother's papers, and unfortunately destroyed them, instead of preparing a memoir of her as she had intended to do. It is a matter of great regret that she did not feel able to do this work, for Mrs. Alcott's letters would have been a most valuable record of the life of her time, as well as a treasury of bright thought and earnest feeling. Louisa was not willing to commit the task to any other hand, and the opportunity is gone. 333
To Mrs. Dodge.
Concord, May 29.
Dear Mrs. Dodge,–I was away from home, so your letter did not reach me till I got back yesterday.
Thanks for your kind thought of me, and recollections of the pleasant week when the L. L.'s had a lark. I should like another; but in this work-a-day world busy folk don't get many, as we know.
If I write a serial, you shall have it; but I have my doubts as to the leisure and quiet needed for such tasks being possible with a year-old baby. Of course little Lu is a very remarkable child, but I fancy I shall feel as full of responsibility as a hen with one chick, and cluck and scratch industriously for the sole benefit of my daughter.
She may, however, have a literary turn, and be my assistant, by offering hints and giving studies of character for my work. She comes in September, if well.
If I do begin a new story, how would "An Old-Fashioned Boy" and his life do? I meant that for the title of a book, but another woman took it. You proposed a revolutionary tale once, but I was not up to it; for this I have quaint material in my father's journals, letters, and recollections. He was born with the century, and had an uncle in the war of 1812; and his life was very pretty and pastoral in the early days. I think a new sort of story wouldn't be amiss, with fun in it, and the queer old names and habits. I began it long ago, and if I have a chance will finish off a few chapters and send them to you, if you like.
L. M. Alcott. 334
To Mr. Niles, about the new illustrated edition of "Little Women."
York, July 20, 1880.
The drawings are all capital, and we had great fun over them down here this rainy day.... Mr. Merrill certainly deserves a good penny for his work. Such a fertile fancy and quick hand as his should be well paid, and I shall not begrudge him his well-earned compensation, nor the praise I am sure these illustrations will earn. It is very pleasant to think that the lucky little story has been of use to a fellow-worker, and I am much obliged to him for so improving on my hasty pen-and-ink sketches. What a dear rowdy boy Teddy is with the felt basin on!
The papers are great gossips, and never get anything quite straight, and I do mean to set up my own establishment in Boston (D.V.). Now I have an excuse for a home of my own, and as the other artistic and literary spinsters have a house, I am going to try the plan, for a winter at least.
Come and see how cosey we are next October at 81 Pinckney Street. Miss N. will receive.
L. M. A.
To Mrs. Dodge.
81 Pinckney Street, 1880.
Dear Mrs. Dodge,–The editor of "Harper's Young People" asked for a serial, and I declined; then they wanted a short story for Christmas, and I sent one. But it was not long enough, though longer than most of my short $100 tales. 335
So I said, "If you don't want it, send it to 'Saint Nicholas.'"
Therefore if "How It Happened" comes straying along, you will know what it means. If you don't want it, please send it to me in Boston, 81 Pinckney Street; for Christmas tales are always in demand, and I have no time to write more.
You will like to know that my baby is safely here,–a healthy, happy little soul, who comes like sunshine to our sad hearts, and takes us all captive by her winning ways and lovely traits.
I shall soon be settled for the winter, and I hope have good times after the hard ones.
L. M. A.
April, 1880.–So sad and poorly; went to B. for a change. Old room at the Bellevue.
Amused myself dramatizing "Michael Strogoff;" read, walked, and rested. Reporters called for story of my life; did not get much. Made my will, dividing all I have between Nan and the boys, with Father as a legacy to Nan, and to Lulu her mother's pictures and small fortune of $500.
May.–Thirty girls from Boston University called; told stories, showed pictures, wrote autographs. Pleasant to see so much innocent enthusiasm, even about so poor a thing as a used-up old woman. Bright girls! simple in dress, sensible ideas of life, and love of education. I wish them all good luck.
Ordered a stone for May's grave like Marmee's and Beth's, for some day I hope to bring her dust home. 336
Twenty-third is the anniversary of Mother's wedding. If she had lived, it would have been the golden wedding.
Went to see St. Botolph's Club rooms. Very prim and neat, with easy chairs everywhere; stained glass, and a pious little bar, with nothing visible but a moral ice-pitcher and a butler like a bishop. The reverend gentlemen will be comfortable and merry, I fancy, as there is a smoking-room and card-tables, as well as a library and picture-gallery. Divines nowadays are not as godly as in old times, it seems.
Mrs. Dodge wants a new serial, but I doubt if I can do it; boys, babies, illness, and business of all sorts leave no time for story-telling.
June.–We all enjoy the new rooms very much, and Father finds his study delightful. Prepare the Orchard House for W. T. Harris, who is to rent it.
North End Mission children at Walden Pond. Help give them a happy day,–eleven hundred of them. Get Anna and John off to Walpole. Cleaned house.
Madame N. sends a picture of Lulu,–a funny, fat little thing in her carriage. Don't realize that it is May's child, and that she is far away in a French cemetery, never to come home to us again.
It is decided that Baby is to come to us in September.
24th.–Lizzie's birthday and Johnny's. He is fifteen,–a lovely, good boy, whom every one loves. Got the Dean a new suit of clothes, as he must be nice for his duties at the School. Plato's toga was not so costly, but even he did not look better than my handsome old philosopher.
July and August.–To York with boys. Rest and enjoy the fine air. Home in August, and let Anna go down. Four hundred callers since the School began. Philosophy is a bore to outsiders. 337
Got things ready for my baby,–warm wrapper, and all the dear can need on her long journey. On the 21st saw Mrs. Giles (who went for baby) off; the last time I went, it was to see May go. She was sober and sad, not gay as before; seemed to feel it might be a longer voyage than we knew. The last view I had of her, was standing alone in the long blue cloak waving her hand to us, smiling with wet eyes till out of sight. How little we dreamed what an experience of love, joy, pain, and death she was going to!
A lonely time with all away. My grief meets me when I come home, and the house is full of ghosts.
September.–Put papers in order, and arrange things generally, to be in order when our Lulu comes. Make a cosey nursery for the darling, and say my prayers over the little white crib that waits for her, if she ever comes. God watch over her!
Paid my first poll-tax. As my head is my most valuable piece of property, I thought $2 a cheap tax on it. Saw my townswomen about voting, etc. Hard work to stir them up; cake and servants are more interesting.
18th.–In Boston, waiting for the steamer that brings my treasure. The ocean seems very wide and terrible when I think of the motherless little creature coming so far to us.
19th.–Lulu and Sophie N. arrived with poor G., worn out by anxiety. A stormy passage, and much care, being turned out of the stateroom I had engaged for them and paid for, by a rude New York dressmaker. No help for it, so poor G. went to a rat-hole below, and did her best.
As I waited on the wharf while the people came off the ship, I saw several babies, and wondered each time if that was mine. At last the captain appeared, and in 338 his arms a little yellow-haired thing in white, with its hat half off as it looked about with lively blue eyes and babbled prettily. Mrs. G. came along by it, and I knew it was Lulu. Behind, walked a lovely brown-eyed girl with an anxious face, all being new and strange to Sophie.
I held out my arms to Lulu, only being able to say her name. She looked at me for a moment, then came to me, saying "Marmar" in a wistful way, and resting close as if she had found her own people and home at last,–as she had, thank Heaven! I could only listen while I held her, and the others told their tale. Then we got home as soon as we could, and dear baby behaved very well, though hungry and tired.
The little princess was received with tears and smiles, and being washed and fed went quietly to sleep in her new bed, while we brooded over her and were never tired of looking at the little face of "May's baby."
She is a very active, bright child, not pretty yet, being browned by sea air, and having a yellow down on her head, and a pug nose. Her little body is beautifully formed, broad shoulders, fine chest, and lovely arms. A happy thing, laughing and waving her hands, confiding and bold, with a keen look in the eyes so like May, who hated shams and saw through them at once. She always comes to me, and seems to have decided that I am really "Marmar." My heart is full of pride and joy, and the touch of the dear little hands seems to take away the bitterness of grief. I often go at night to see if she is really here, and the sight of the little head is like sunshine to me. Father adores her, and she loves to sit in his strong arms. They make a pretty picture as he walks in the garden with her to "see birdies." Anna tends her as she did May, who was her baby once, being ten years younger, and we all find life 339 easier to live now the baby has come. Sophie is a sweet girl, with much character and beauty. A charming sister in love as in law.
October.–Happy days with Lulu and Sophie; getting acquainted with them. Lulu is rosy and fair now, and grows pretty in her native air,–a merry little lass, who seems to feel at home and blooms in an atmosphere of adoration. People come to see "Miss Alcott's baby," and strangers waylay her little carriage in the street to look at her; but she does not allow herself to be kissed.
As Father wants to go West I decide to hire Cousin L. W.'s house furnished for the winter, so that Sophie and the boys can have a pleasant time. S. misses the gayety of her home-life in stupid Concord, where the gossip and want of manners strike her very disagreeably. Impertinent questions are asked her, and she is amazed at the queer, rude things people say.
November 8th.–Lulu's birthday. One year old. Her gifts were set out on a table for her to see when she came down in the afternoon,–a little cake with one candle, a rose crown for the queen, a silver mug, dolly, picture-books, gay ball, toys, flowers, and many kisses. She sat smiling at her treasures just under her mother's picture. Suddenly, attracted by the sunshine on the face of the portrait which she knows is "Marmar," she held up a white rose to it calling "Mum! Mum!" and smiling at it in a way that made us all cry. A happy day for her, a sad one to us.
Father at Syracuse, having conversations at Bishop Huntington's and a fine time everywhere.
December.–Too busy to keep much of a journal. My life is absorbed in my baby. On the twenty-third 340 she got up and walked alone; had never crept at all, but when ready ran across the room and plumped down, laughing triumphantly at her feat.
Christmas.–Tried to make it gay for the young folks, but a heavy day for Nan and me. Sixty gifts were set out on different tables, and all were much pleased. Sophie had many pretty things, and gave to all generously.
A hard year for all, but when I hold my Lulu I feel as if even death had its compensations. A new world for me.
Called down one day to see a young man. Found it one of those to whom I spoke at the prison in Concord last June. Came to thank me for the good my little story did him, since it kept him straight and reminded him that it is never too late to mend. Told me about himself, and how he was going to begin anew and wipe out the past. He had been a miner, and coming East met some fellows who made him drink; while tipsy he stole something in a doctor's office, and having no friends here was sentenced to three years in prison. Did well, and was now out. Had a prospect of going on an expedition to South America with a geological surveying party. An interesting young man. Fond of books, anxious to do well, intelligent, and seemed eager to atone for his one fault. Gave him a letter to S. G. at Chicago. Wrote to the warden, who confirmed D.'s story and spoke well of him. Miss Willard wrote me later of him, and he seemed doing well. Asked if he might write to me, and did so several times, then went to S. A. and I hear no more. Glad to have said a word to help the poor boy.
March, 1881.–Voted for school committee.
October.–Wrote a preface for Parker's Prayers, just got out by F. B. Sanborn. 341
November.–Forty-nine on 29th. Wrote a preface to the new edition of "Moods."
8th.–Gave my baby two kisses when she woke, and escorted her down to find a new chair decked with ribbons, and a doll's carriage tied with pink; toys, pictures, flowers, and a cake, with a red and a blue candle burning gayly.
Wrote a tale for the Soldiers' Home,–"My Red Cap,"–and one for the Woman's Hospital fair,–"A Baby's Birthday." Also a tale for F.
December.–A poor woman in Illinois writes me to send her children some Christmas gifts, being too poor and ill to get any. They asked her to write to Santa Claus and she wrote to me. Sent a box, and made a story about it,–$100. Lulu much interested, and kept bringing all her best toys and clothes "for poor little boys." A generous baby.
To Mr. Niles.
February 12, 1881.
Dear Mr. Niles,–Wendell Phillips wrote me a letter begging me to write a preface for Mrs. Robinson's "History of the Suffrage Movement;" but I refused him, as I did Mrs. R., because I don't write prefaces well, and if I begin to do it there will be no end....
Cannot you do a small edition for her? All the believers will buy the book, and I think the sketches of L. M. Child, Abby May, Alcott, and others will add much to the interest of the book.
Has she seen you about it? Will you look at the manuscripts by and by, or do you scorn the whole thing? Better not; for we are going to win in time, and the friend of literary ladies ought to be also the friend of women generally. 342
We are going to meet the Governor, council, and legislature at Mrs. Tudor's next Wednesday eve and have a grand set-to. I hope he will come out of the struggle alive.
Do give Mrs. R. a lift if you can, and your petitioners will ever pray.
L. M. A.
February 19, 1881.
Dear Mr. Niles,–Thank you very much for so kindly offering to look at Mrs. R.'s book. It is always pleasant to find a person who can conquer his prejudices to oblige a friend, if no more.
I think we shall be glad by and by of every little help we may have been able to give to this reform in its hard times, for those who take the tug now will deserve the praise when the work is done.
I can remember when Antislavery was in just the same state that Suffrage is now, and take more pride in the very small help we Alcotts could give than in all the books I ever wrote or ever shall write.
"Earth's fanatics often make heaven's saints," you know, and it is as well to try for that sort of promotion in time.
If Mrs. R. does send her manuscripts I will help all I can in reading or in any other way. If it only records the just and wise changes Suffrage has made in the laws for women, it will be worth printing; and it is time to keep account of these first steps, since they count most.
I, for one, don't want to be ranked among idiots, felons, and minors any longer, for I am none of the three, but very gratefully yours,
L. M. A. 343
To Mrs. Stearns.
February 21, 1881.
Dear Mrs. Stearns,–Many thanks for the tender thoughtfulness which sends us the precious little notes from the dear dead hands.
They are so characteristic that they bring both Mother and May clearly up before me, alive and full of patient courage and happy hopes. I am resigned to my blessed mother's departure, since life was a burden, and the heroic past made a helpless future very hard to think of. But May's loss, just when life was fullest and sweetest, seems very bitter to me still, in spite of the sweet baby who is an unspeakable comfort. I wish you could see the pretty creature who already shows many of her mother's traits and tastes. Her love of pictures is a passion, but she will not look at the common gay ones most babies enjoy. She chooses the delicate, well-drawn, and painted figures of Caldecott and Miss Greenaway; over these she broods with rapture, pointing her little fingers at the cows or cats, and kissing the children with funny prattlings to these dumb playmates. She is a fine, tall girl, full of energy, intelligence, and health; blonde and blue-eyed like her mother, but with her father's features, for which I am glad, for he is a handsome man. Louisa May bids fair to be a noble woman; and I hope I may live to see May's child as brave and bright and talented as she was and, much happier in her fate.
Father is at the West, busy and well. Anna joins me in thanks and affectionate regards.
L. M. Alcott.
March, 1882.–Helped start a temperance society; much needed in C. A great deal of drinking, not 344 among the Irish, but young American gentlemen, as well as farmers and mill hands. Women anxious to do something, but find no interest beyond a few. Have meetings, and try to learn how to work. I was secretary, and wrote records, letters, and sent pledges, etc.; also articles in "Concord Freeman" and "Woman's Journal" about the union and town meetings.
April.–Read over and destroyed Mother's diaries, as she wished me to do so. A wonderfully interesting record of her life, from her delicate, cherished girlhood through her long, hard, romantic married years, old age, and death. Some time I will write a story or a memoir of it.
Lulu's teeth trouble her; but in my arms she seems to find comfort, for I tell stories by the dozen; and lambs, piggies, and "tats" soothe her little woes. Wish I were stronger, so that I might take all the care of her. We seem to understand each other, but my nerves make me impatient, and noise wears upon me.
Mr. Emerson ill. Father goes to see him. E. held his hand, looking up at the tall, sorry old man, and saying, with that smile of love that has been Father's sunshine for so many years, "You are very well,–keep so, keep so." After Father left, he called him back and grasped his hand again, as if he knew it was for the last time, and the kind eyes said, "Good-by, my friend!"
April 27, 1882, Louisa speaks most tenderly of the death of Mr. Emerson. He had been to her and to her family the truest and best of friends; and her own profound reverence for him had been a strong influence, from the time when she played games with his children in the barn until she followed him to his honored grave. Let critics and 345 philosophers judge him by his intellect; in the hearts of this family, and in many an humble home besides, he will always be remembered as the tenderest, most sympathetic, most loyal of all friends, whose bounty fell on them silently as the dew from heaven, and whose presence could brighten the highest joy and soothe the keenest sorrow they could ever know.
Thursday, 27th.–Mr. Emerson died at 9 p.m. suddenly. Our best and greatest American gone. The nearest and dearest friend Father has ever had, and the man who has helped me most by his life, his books, his society. I can never tell all he has been to me,–from the time I sang Mignon's song under his window (a little girl) and wrote letters à la Bettine to him, my Goethe, at fifteen, up through my hard years, when his essays on Self-Reliance, Character, Compensation, Love, and Friendship helped me to understand myself and life, and God and Nature. Illustrious and beloved friend, good-by!
Sunday, 30th.–Emerson's funeral. I made a yellow lyre of jonquils for the church, and helped trim it up. Private services at the house, and a great crowd at the church. Father read his sonnet, and Judge Hoar and others spoke. Now he lies in Sleepy Hollow among his brothers, under the pines he loved.
I sat up till midnight to write an article on R. W. E. for the "Youth's Companion," that the children may know something of him. A labor of love.
May.–Twenty-seven boys signed pledge. Temperance work. Meetings. I give books to schools. Wrote an article for Mrs. Croly on R. W. E. 346
June.–I visited A. B. in Mattapoisset for a week. A queer time, driving about or talking over our year in Europe. School children called upon me with flowers, etc.
24th.–John's seventeenth birthday. A dear boy, good and gay, full of love, manliness, and all honest and lovely traits, like his father and mother. Long life to my boy!
July.–School of Philosophy opens on the 17th in full force. I arrange flowers, oak branches, etc., and then fly before the reporters come. Father very happy. Westerners arrive, and the town is full with ideal speculators. Penny has a new barge; we call it the "Blue Plato" (not the "Black Maria"), and watch it rumble by with Margaret Fullers in white muslin and Hegels in straw hats, while stout Penny grins at the joke as he puts money in his purse. The first year Concord people stood aloof, and the strangers found it hard to get rooms. Now every one is eager to take them, and the School is pronounced a success because it brings money to the town. Even philosophers can't do without food, beds, and washing; so all rejoice, and the new craze flourishes. If all our guests paid we should be well off; several hundred a month is rather wearing. Father asked why we never went, and Anna showed him a long list of four hundred names of callers, and he said no more.
October.–To Hotel Bellevue with John.
Missed my dear baby, but need quiet. Brain began to work, and plans for tales to simmer. Began "Jo's Boys," as Mrs. Dodge wants a serial.
In the autumn of 1882 Mr. Alcott was attacked by a severe stroke of paralysis, from which he never fully recovered; and for the rest of his life 347 his daughters shared in the duty of tending and caring for him in his enfeebled state. It had been the great reward of Louisa's years of hard work that she could surround her mother with every comfort that could make her happy in her last declining years. Not less had she delighted to gratify every wish of her father. His library was fitted up with exquisite taste, his books and manuscripts bound, and he was "throned in philosophic ease" for the rest of his days. What a relief it was now that she could have the faithful nurse ready at his call; that she could give him the pleasant drives which he enjoyed so much; and lighten her sister's labors with every assistance that money could procure!
The Orchard House, which had been the family home for twenty-five years, was sold to Mr. Harris, and Mrs. Pratt's house was the home of all. Louisa spent part of the summer at the seashore, and finally bought a small house at Nonquit, where the children could all spend the summer, while she and her sister alternated in the care of her father.
In the autumn of 1885, Miss Alcott decided to take a furnished house in Louisburg Square. Her nephews were established in Boston, and their mother wished to be with them. Mr. Alcott bore the moving well, and they found many comforts in the arrangement. Louisa's health was very feeble. She had great trouble in the throat, and her old dyspeptic symptoms returned to annoy her. Still she cannot give up work, and busies herself in preparing "Lulu's Library" for publication, 348 and hopes to be able to work on "Jo's Boys."
"Lulu's Library" was a collection of stories which had been the delight of the child. The first series was published in 1885, the second in 1887, and the third in 1889. They are full of Louisa's charming qualities, and have a special interest from the tender feeling with which she gathered them up for her niece. The touching preface to "Jo's Boys" tells of the seven years of occasional work on this book, and reveals the depth of feeling which would not allow her to write as formerly of Marmee and Amy, who were no longer here to accept their own likenesses. During the latter part of her work on this book, she could only write from half an hour to one or two hours a day. This was published in September, 1886. It contains an engraving of her from a bas-relief by Mr. Ricketson.
This book was written under hard circumstances, and cost its author more effort perhaps than any other. It is evidently not the overflow of her delight and fun in life like "Little Women," but it is full of biographical interest. Her account of her own career, and of the annoyances to which her celebrity exposed her, is full of her old spirit and humor. She has expressed many valuable thoughts on education, and her spirit is as hopeful for her boys as in her days of youth and health. She has too many characters to manage; but we feel a keen interest in the fortunes of Dan and Emil, and in the courtship by the warm-hearted Tom of his medical sweetheart. 349
Preface to "Jo's Boys."
Having been written at long intervals during the past seven years, this story is more faulty than any of its very imperfect predecessors; but the desire to atone for an unavoidable disappointment, and to please my patient little friends, has urged me to let it go without further delay.
To account for the seeming neglect of Amy, let me add, that, since the original of that character died, it has been impossible for me to write of her as when she was here to suggest, criticise, and laugh over her namesake. The same excuse applies to Marmee. But the folded leaves are not blank to those who knew and loved them and can find memorials of them in whatever is cheerful, true, or helpful in these pages.
L. M. Alcott.
Concord, July 4, 1886.
To Mr. Horace Chandler.
Dear Mr. Chandler,–The corrections are certainly rather peculiar, and I fear my struggles to set them right have only produced greater confusion.
Fortunately punctuation is a free institution, and all can pepper to suit the taste. I don't care much, and always leave proof-readers to quibble if they like.
Thanks for the tickets. I fear I cannot come till Thursday, but will try, and won't forget the office, since I am not that much-tried soul the editor.
L. M. A. 350
To Mrs. Williams (Betsey Prig).
Nonquit, August 25.
Dear Betsey,–I am so sorry the darling Doll is ill! Brood over him, and will him well; for mother-love works wonders.
My poppet is a picture of health, vigor, and delightful naughtiness. She runs wild in this fine place with some twenty other children to play with,–nice babies, well-bred, and with pleasant mammas for me to gossip with.
It would be a good place for your little people, as the air is delicious, bathing safe and warm, and cottages to be quiet in if one cares to keep house. Do try it next year. Let me know early. I can get a nice little cot for you (near mine) for $100, or perhaps less, from June to October,–if you care to stay; I do....
We have been here since July, and are all hearty, brown, and gay as larks.
"John Inglesant" was too political for me. I am too lazy here to read much; mean to find a den in Boston and work for a month or two; then fly off to New York, and perhaps run over and see my Betsey. I shall be at home in October, and perhaps we may see you then, if the precious little shadow gets nice and well again, and I pray he may.
Lulu has some trifling ail now and then,–just enough to show me how dear she is to us all, and what a great void the loss of our little girl would make in hearts and home. She is very intelligent and droll. When I told her the other day that the crickets were hopping and singing in the grass with their mammas, she said at once, "No; their Aunt Weedys." Aunty is nearer than mother to the poor baby; and it is very sweet to have it so, since it must be. 351
Now, my blessed Betsey, keep a brave heart, and I am sure all will be well in the nest. Love and kisses to the little birds, and all good wishes to the turtle-dove and her mate.
L. M. A.
The older birthdays are 29th of November, Lulu's the 8th; so we celebrate for Grandpa, Auntie, and Lulu all at once, in great style,–eighty-three, fifty, and three years old.
When I get on my pins I'm going (D. V.) to devote myself to settling poor souls who need a gentle boost in hard times.
To Mr. Niles.
June 23, 1883.
Dear Mr. Niles,–Thanks for the Goethe book. I want everything that comes out about him. "Princess Amelia" is charming, and the surprise at the end well done. Did the author of "My Wife's Sister" write it?
I told L. C. M. she might put "A Modern Mephistopheles" in my list of books. Several people had found it out, and there was no use in trying to keep it secret after that.
Mrs. Dodge begged me to consider myself mortgaged to her for tales, etc., and as I see no prospect of any time for writing books, I may be able to send her some short stories from time to time, and so be getting material for a new set of books like "Scrap-bag," but with a new name. You excel in names, and can be evolving one meantime....
L. M. A.
July 15, 1884.
I wish I might be inspired to do those dreadful boys ["Jo's Boys"]; but rest is more needed than money. 352 Perhaps during August, my month at home, I may take a grind at the old mill.
October 24, 1882.–Telegram that Father had had a paralytic stroke. Home at once, and found him stricken down. Anxious days; little hope.
November.–Gave up our rooms, and I went home to help with the new care. My Lulu ran to meet me, rosy and gay, and I felt as if I could bear anything with this little sunbeam to light up the world for me.
Poor Father dumb and helpless; feeble mind slowly coming back. He knows us; but he's asleep most of the time. Get a nurse, and wait to see if he will rally. It is sad to see the change one moment makes, turning the hale, handsome old man into this pathetic wreck. The forty sonnets last winter and the fifty lectures at the School last summer were too much for a man of eighty-three. He was warned by Dr. W., but thought it folly to stop; and now poor Father pays the penalty of breaking the laws of health. I have done the same: may I be spared this end!
January, 1883.–Too busy to keep a diary. Can only jot down a fact now and then.
Father improving. Much trouble with nurses; have no idea of health; won't walk; sit over the fire, and drink tea three times a day; ought to be an intelligent, hearty set of women. Could do better myself; have to fill up all the deficiencies and do double duty.
People come to see Father; but it excites him, and we have to deny him.
February.–To B. for a week of rest, having got Mrs. H. settled with Father, and all comfortable for November.
Began a book called "Genius." Shall never finish it, 353 I dare say, but must keep a vent for my fancies to escape at. This double life is trying, and my head will work as well as my hands.
March.–To give A. rest I took Lulu and maid to the Bellevue for a month. Lulu very happy with her new world. Enjoys her walks, the canary I got her, and the petting she gets from all. Showed her to friends; want them to know May's child. Had her picture taken by Notman; very good.
April 2d.–Town meeting. Seven women vote. I am one of them, and A. another. A poor show for a town that prides itself on its culture and independence.
6th.–Go home to stay; Father needs me. New nurse; many callers; Lulu fretful, Anna tired, Father feeble,–hard times for all.
Wrote a story for "St. Nicholas" at odd moments. Nurses and doctors take a deal of money.
May.–Take care of Lulu, as we can find no good woman to walk and dress and play with her. The ladies are incapable or proud; the girls vulgar or rough; so my poor baby has a bad time with her little temper and active mind and body. Could do it myself if I had the nerves and strength, but am needed elsewhere, and must leave the child to some one. Long to go away with her and do as I like. Shall never lead my own life.
July.–Go to Nonquit with Miss H. and Lulu for the summer. A quiet, healthy place, with pleasant people and fine air. Turn Lulu loose, with H. to run after her, and try to rest.
Lulu takes her first bath in the sea. Very bold; walks off toward Europe up to her neck, and is much afflicted that I won't let her go to the bottom and see the "little trabs;" makes a cupid of herself, and is very pretty and gay. 354
The boys revel in the simple pleasures of Nonquit,–a fine place for them to be in.
Wrote a tale for "St. Nicholas,"–"Sophie's Secret,"–$100.
August.–Home to C., and let A. come for her holiday. Much company.
P. C. Mozoomdar preached, and had a conversation at Mrs. Emerson's; a most interesting man. Curious to hear a Hindu tell how the life of Christ impressed him.
November 27th.–Decide to lessen care and worry at home; so take rooms in Boylston Street, and with Lulu set forth to make a home of our own. The whole parlor floor gives my lady room to run in doors, and the Public Garden opposite is the out-door play-ground. Miss C. comes as governess, and we settle down. Fred boards with us. Heard Mathew Arnold.
29th.–Birthday,–fifty-one. Home with gifts to poor Father,–eighty-four. Found a table full for myself.
December 25th.–Home with gifts for all; sad day. See H. Martineau's statue; very fine.
January, 1884.–New Year's Day is made memorable by my solemnly spanking my child. Miss C. and others assure me it is the only way to cure her wilfulness. I doubt it; but knowing that mothers are usually too tender and blind, I correct my dear in the old-fashioned way. She proudly says, "Do it, do it!" and when it is done is heartbroken at the idea of Aunt Wee-wee's giving her pain. Her bewilderment was pathetic, and the effect, as I expected, a failure. Love is better; but also endless patience.
February 2d.–Wendell Phillips died. I shall mourn for him next to R. W. E. and Parker.
6th.–Funeral at Hollis Street Church. Sat between 355 Fred Douglas and his wife. A goodly gathering of all left of the old workers. Glad and proud to be among them.
June.–Sell the Orchard House to W. T. Harris. Glad to be done with it, though after living in it twenty-five years, it is full of memories; but places have not much hold on me when the dear persons who made them dear are gone....
Bought a cottage at Nonquit, with house and furniture. All like it, and it is a good investment I am told.
24th.–To Nonquit with Lulu and K. and John. Fixed my house, and enjoyed the rest and quiet immensely. Lulu wild with joy at the freedom....
July and August.–Restful days in my little house, which is cool and quiet, and without the curse of a kitchen to spoil it.
Lulu happy and well, and every one full of summer fun.
On the 7th of August I went home, and let A. go for her holiday.
Took care of Father and house, and idled away the hot days with books and letters. Drove with Father, as he enjoyed it very much....
October.–To Boston with John, and take rooms at the Bellevue. Very tired of home-worry, and fly for rest to my old refuge, with J. and L. to look after and make a home for.
Saw Irving. Always enjoy him, though he is very queer. Ellen Terry always the same, though charming in her way.
November.–Find Bellevue uncomfortable and expensive, so take rooms in Chestnut Street for self and boys.
8th.–My Lulu's birthday. Go home with flowers, gifts, and a grateful heart that the dear little girl is so well and happy and good. A merry day with the little queen of the house. 356
29th.–Our birthday,–Father eighty-five; L. M. A. fifty-two. Quiet day; always sad for thinking of Mother and John and May, who all left us at this season.
December.–Began again on "Jo's Boys," as T. N. wants a new book very much, and I am tired of being idle. Wrote two hours for three days, then had a violent attack of vertigo, and was ill for a week. Head won't bear work yet. Put away papers, and tried to dawdle and go about as other people do.
Pleasant Christmas with Lulu and Nan and poor Father, who loves to see us about him. A narrow world now, but a happy one for him.
Last day of the year. All well at home except myself; body feeble, but soul improving.
January 1, 1885.–Pleasant greeting from brother Ernest by telegram,–never forgets us. Opera in the evening,–Emma Nevada. Sent box home. Very cold.
John had his first dress-suit. Happy boy! Several pleasant Sunday evenings at E. P. W.'s. See Mrs. Burnett, and like her.
Visit Blind Asylum and North End Mission. Lulu passed a week with me for a change.
19th.–An old-fashioned party in an old-time house. All in antique costume; Lulu very pretty in hers. Country kitchen and country fare; spinning and weaving; old songs and dances; tally-ho coach with P. as an ancient Weller,–very funny.
June.–Read Life of Saint Elizabeth by D'Alembert,–quaint and sweet; also French novels. Write out the little tales I tell Lulu for a new Christmas book, having nothing else. Send one, "The Candy Country," to "St. Nicholas."
August 8th.–Go home, and A. goes to N. Take care of Father, arrange the little tales, and look at houses in B. Have a plan to take a furnished house for the winter, and all be together. A. is lonely in C.; boys must be near business. I want Lulu, and Father will enjoy a change.
Sorted old letters, and burned many. Not wise to keep for curious eyes to read and gossip-lovers to print by and by.
Lived in the past for days, and felt very old, recalling all I have been through. Experiences go deep with me, and I begin to think it might be well to keep some record of my life, if it will help others to read it when I'm gone. People seem to think our lives interesting and peculiar.
September.–After a lively time with house-brokers, I take a house in Louisburg Square for two years. It is a large house, furnished, and well suited to our needs,–sunny, trees in front, good air, and friends near by. All are pleased, and we prepare to move October 1st....
Father drove down very nicely. Pleased with his new room; Lulu charmed with her big, sunny nursery and the play-house left for her; boys in clover; and Nan ready for the new sort of housekeeping.
I shall miss my quiet, care-free life in B.; but it is best for all, so I shall try to bear the friction and the worry many persons always bring me.
It will be an expensive winter; but T. N. tells me the books never sold better, so a good run in January will make all safe.
"Lulu's Library" as a "pot-boiler" will appease the children, and I may be able to work on "Jo's Boys."
March, 1886.–To Mrs. H.'s to hear Mr. Snyder read the "Iliad;" enjoyed it. 358
Sixteen little girls call, and the autograph fiend is abroad.
27th.–Another attack of vertigo,–ill for a week; sleepless nights. Head worked like a steam-engine; would not stop. Planned "Jo's Boys" to the end, and longed to get up and write it. Told Dr. W. that he had better let me get the ideas out, then I could rest. He very wisely agreed, and said, "As soon as you can, write half an hour a day, and see if it does you good. Rebellious brains want to be attended to, or trouble comes." So I began as soon as able, and was satisfied that we were right; for my head felt better very soon, and with much care about not overdoing, I had some pleasant hours when I forgot my body and lived in my mind.
April.–Went on writing one or two hours a day, and felt no ill effects.
May.–Began to think of Concord, and prepare to go back for the summer. Father wants his books; Lulu, her garden; Anna, her small house; and the boys, their friends. I want to go away and rest.
Anna goes up the last of the month and gets the house ready. We send Lulu and Father later, and the boys and I shut up No. 10....
June.–Home in C.,–sunny, clean, and pleasant. Put Lulu in order, and get ready for a month in Princeton with Mrs. H. Very tired.
A quiet three weeks on the hillside,–a valley pink with laurel in front, Mount Wachusett behind us, and green hills all round. A few pleasant people. I read, sleep, walk, and write,–get fifteen chapters done. Instinct was right; after seven years of rest, the old brain was ready for work and tired of feeding on itself, since work it must at something. Enjoyed Hedge's "Hours with German Classics," and "Baldwin," by Vernon Lee. 359
Home in time to get Anna and Lulu off to N. for the summer. A. needs the rest very much, and Lulu the freedom. I shall revel in the quiet, and finish my book.
July.–The seashore party get off, and peace reigns. I rest a day, and then to work. Finish "Jo's Boys," and take it to T. N. Much rejoicing over a new book. Fifty thousand to be the first edition; orders coming in fast. Not good,–too great intervals between the parts, as it was begun long ago; but the children will be happy, and my promise kept. Two new chapters were needed, so I wrote them, and gladly corked my inkstand.
What next? Mrs. Dodge wants a serial, and T. N. a novel. I have a dozen plots in my head, but think the serial better come first. Want a great deal of money for many things; every poor soul I ever knew comes for help, and expenses increase. I am the only money-maker, and must turn the mill for others, though my own grist is ground and in the barn.
The School begins. Father feeble, but goes,–for the last time, I think.
A series of letters to her father's friend, Mrs. Stearns, show how tenderly and carefully Louisa watched over the slow decline of the stricken man, but they are too full of details of the sickroom for publication. A few extracts will give her feeling.
May 23 .
Dear Mrs. Stearns,–Many thanks for the sweet nosegay you sent me. It came in good time, for to-day is the anniversary of Father's wedding-day and my sister's silver wedding. Rather sad for both mateless 360 ones; but we have done our best to cheer them up, and the soft rain is very emblematic of the memories their own quiet tears keep green.
Father remembered you, and smelled his flowers with pleasure. He is very tired of living, and wants to "go up," as he expresses it. A little more or little less light would make him happier; but the still active mind beats against the prison bars, and rebels against the weakness of body that prevents the old independent life. I am afraid the end is not to be peaceful unless it is sudden, as I hope it may be for all our sakes; it is so wearing to see this slow decline, and be able to do little but preach and practise patience.
L. M. A.
It is only a temporary change, perhaps; but I still hope that it will last, and his mind grow still clearer. These painless, peaceful days have a certain sweetness, sad as it is to see the dear, hale old man so feeble. If he can know us, and enjoy something of the old life, it is worth having, though the end may come at any moment....
Now and then a word comes without effort. "Up!" was the first one, and seems very characteristic of this beautiful, aspiring soul, almost on the wing for heaven.
To Mr. Niles.
Nonquit, July 13, 1885.
Dear Mr. Niles,–I want to know if it is too late to do it and if it is worth doing; namely, to collect some of the little tales I tell Lulu and put them with the two I 361 shall have printed the last year and the "Mermaid Tale" to match the pictures we bought, and call it "Lulu's Library"? I have several tiny books written down for L.; and as I can do no great work, it occurred to me that I might venture to copy these if it would do for a Christmas book for the younger set.
I ache to fall on some of the ideas that are simmering in my head, but dare not, as my one attempt since the last "Jo's Boys" break-down cost me a week or two of woe and $30 for the doctor. I have lovely long days here, and can copy these and see 'em along if you want them. One has gone to "Harper's Young People," and one is for "St. Nicholas" when it is done,–about the Kindergarten for the blind. These with Lulu's would make a little book, and might begin a series for small folks. Old ladies come to this twaddle when they can do nothing else. What say you?...
L. M. A.
September 18, 1885.
Dear Mr. Niles,–I send you some funny sketches by Mrs. L. She seems to be getting on. How would it do to ask her to illustrate the fairy book? She has a pretty taste in elves, and her little girl was good. I hope to touch up the other stories this winter, and she can illustrate, and next Christmas (or whenever it is ready) we can have a little book out. This sort of work being all I dare do now, I may as well be clearing the decks for action when the order comes to "Up, and at 'em!" again, if it ever does.
Fac-simile of Miss Alcott's Writing.
I'd like to help Mrs. L. if I could, as we know something of her, and I fancy she needs a lift. Perhaps we could use these pictures in some way if she liked to have 364 us. Maybe I could work them into a story of out "cullud bredren."
Thanks for the books. Dear Miss –– is rather prim in her story, but it is pretty and quite correct. So different from Miss Alcott's slap-dash style.
The "H. H." book ["Ramona"] is a noble record of the great wrongs of her chosen people, and ought to wake up the sinners to repentance and justice before it is too late. It recalls the old slavery days, only these victims are red instead of black. It will be a disgrace if "H. H." gave her work and pity all in vain.
L. M. A.
Dear Mr. Niles,–Thanks for the book which I shall like to read.
Please tell Miss N. that she will find in Sanborn's article in "St. Nicholas" or Mrs. Moulton's in the "Eminent Women" book all that I wish to have said about myself. You can add such facts about editions, etc., as you think best. I don't like these everlasting notices; one is enough, else we poor people feel like squeezed oranges, and nothing is left sacred.
George Eliot's new life and letters is well done, and we are not sorry we have read them. Mr. Cross has been a wise man, and leaves us all our love and respect instead of spoiling them as Froude did for Carlyle,
L. M. A.
January 2, 1886.
Dear Mr. Niles,–Thanks for the good wishes and news. Now that I cannot work, it is very agreeable to hear that the books go so well, and that the lazy woman need not worry about things. 365
I appreciate my blessings, I assure you. I heartily wish I could "swamp the book-room with 'Jo's Boys,'" as Fred says, and hope to do it by and by when head and hand can safely obey the desire of the heart, which will never be too tired or too old to remember and be grateful.
L. M. Alcott.
Monday, a.m. .
Dear Mr. Niles,–My doctor forbids me to begin a long book or anything that will need much thought this summer. So I must give up "Tragedy of To-day," as it will need a good deal of thinking to be what it ought.
I can give you a girls' book however, and I think that will be better than a novel. I have several stories done, and can easily do more and make a companion volume for "Spinning-Wheel Stories" at Christmas if you want it.
This, with the Lulu stories, will be better than the set of novels I am sure.... Wait till I can do a novel, and then get out the set in style, if Alcott is not forgotten by that time.
I was going to send Mrs. Dodge one of the tales for girls, and if there is time she might have more. But nearly all new ones would make a book go well in the holiday season. You can have those already done now if you want them. "Sophie's Secret" is one, "An Ivy Spray: or Cinderella's Slippers" another, and "Mountain Laurel" is partly done. "A Garland for Girls" might do for a title perhaps, as they are all for girls.
L. M. A.
In the spring of 1886, Dr. Rhoda Lawrence took charge of Miss Alcott's health, and gave her treatment 366 by massage and other appropriate means, from which she received benefit. The summer was spent at Concord with her father, and was varied by a pleasant trip to the mountains. Miss Alcott finished "Jo's Boys," which was published in September. She occupied herself also in looking over old journals and letters, and destroyed many things which she did not wish to have come under the public eye. She had enjoyed her life at Princeton, and said that she felt better than for fifteen years; but in August she was severely attacked with rheumatism and troubled with vertigo. She suffered very much, and was in a very nervous condition.
Miss Alcott always looked bravely and calmly upon all the possibilities of life, and she now made full preparations for the event of her own death. Her youngest nephew had always been especially beloved, and she decided to take out papers of adoption, to make him legally her son and heir. She wished him to assume the name of Alcott, and to be her representative.
Louisa's journal closes July, 1886, with the old feeling,–that she must grind away at the mill and make money to supply the many claims that press upon her from all sides. She feels the burden of every suffering human life upon her own soul. She knew that she could write what was eagerly desired by others and would bring her the means of helping those in need, and her heart and head united in urging her to work. Whether it would have been possible for her to have rested more fully, and whether she might then have worked 367 longer and better, is one of those questions which no one is wise enough to answer. Yet the warning of her life should not be neglected, and the eager brain should learn to obey the laws of life and health while it is yet time.
In September, 1886, Miss Alcott returned to Louisburg Square, and spent the winter in the care of her father, and in the society of her sister and nephews and the darling child. She suffered much from hoarseness, from nervousness and debility, and from indigestion and sleeplessness, but still exerted herself for the comfort of all around her. She had a happy Christmas, and sympathized with the joy of her oldest nephew in his betrothal. In December she was so weary and worn that she went out to Dr. Lawrence's home in Roxbury for rest and care. She found such relief to her overtasked brain and nerves from the seclusion and quiet of Dunreath Place, that she found her home and rest there for the remainder of her life.
It was a great trial to Louisa to be apart from her family, to whom she had devoted her life. She clung to her dying father, and to the dear sister still left to her, with increasing fondness, and she longed for her boys and her child; but her tired nerves could not bear even the companionship of her family, and sometimes for days she wanted to be all alone. "I feel so safe out here!" she said once.
Mr. Alcott spent the summer at Melrose, and Louisa went there to visit him in June. In June and July, 1887, she went to Concord and looked over papers and completed the plan for adopting 368 her nephew. She afterward went to Princeton, accompanied by Dr. Lawrence. She spent eight weeks there, and enjoyed the mountain air and scenery with something of her old delight. She was able to walk a mile or more, and took a solitary walk in the morning, which she greatly enjoyed. Her evening walk was less agreeable, because she was then exposed to the eager curiosity of sight-seers, who constantly pursued her.
Miss Alcott had a great intellectual pleasure here in the society of Mr. James Murdock and his family. The distinguished elocutionist took great pains to gratify her taste for dramatic reading by selecting her favorite scenes for representation, and she even attended one of his public readings given in the hall of the hotel. The old pain in her limbs from which she suffered during her European journey again troubled her, and she returned to Dr. Lawrence's home in the autumn, where she was tenderly cared for.
Miss Alcott was still continually planning stories. Dr. Lawrence read to her a great deal, and the reading often suggested subjects to her. She thought of a series to be called "Stories of All Nations," and had already written "Trudel's Siege," which was published in "St. Nicholas," April, 1888, the scene of which was laid at the siege of Leyden. The English story was to be called "Madge Wildfire," and she had thought of plots for others. She could write very little, and kept herself occupied and amused with fancy work, making flowers and pen-wipers of various colors, in the form of pinks, to send to her friends. 369
On her last birthday Louisa received a great many flowers and pleasant remembrances, which touched her deeply, and she said, "I did not mean to cry to-day, but I can't help it, everybody is so good." She went in to see her father every few days, and was conscious that he was drawing toward the end.
While riding with her friend, Louisa would tell her of the stories she had planned, one of which was to be called "The Philosopher's Wooing," referring to Thoreau. She also had a musical novel in her mind. She could not be idle, and having a respect for sewing, she busied herself with it, making garments for poor children, or helping the Doctor in her work. She insisted upon setting up a work-basket for the Doctor, amply supplied with necessary materials, and was pleased when she saw them used. A flannel garment for a poor child was the last work of her hands. Her health improved in February, especially in the comfort of her nights, as the baths she took brought her the long-desired sleep. "Nothing so good as sleep," she said. But a little too much excitement brought on violent headaches.
During these months Miss Alcott wrote part of the "Garland for Girls," one of the most fanciful and pleasing of her books. These stories were suggested by the flowers sent to her by different friends, which she fully enjoyed. She rode a great deal, but did not see any one.
Her friends were much encouraged; and although they dared not expect full recovery, they hoped that she might be "a comfortable invalid, able to enjoy life, and give help and pleasure to 370 others." She did not suffer great pain, but she was very weak; her nervous system seemed to be utterly prostrated by the years of work and struggle through which she had passed. She said, "I don't want to live if I can't be of use." She had always met the thought of death bravely; and even the separation from her dearest friends was serenely borne. She believed in their continued presence and influence, and felt that the parting was for a little time. She had no fear of God, and no doubt of the future. Her only sadness was in leaving the friends whom she loved and who might yet need her.
A young man wrote asking Miss Alcott if she would advise him to devote himself to authorship; she answered, "Not if you can do anything else. Even dig ditches." He followed her advice, and took a situation where he could support himself, but he still continued to write stories. A little boy sent twenty-five cents to buy her books. She returned the money, telling him it was not enough to buy books, but sent him "Little Men." Scores of letters remained unanswered for want of strength to write or even to read.
Early in March Mr. Alcott failed very rapidly. Louisa drove in to see him, and was conscious that it was for the last time. Tempted by the warm spring-like day, she had made some change in her dress, and absorbed in the thought of the parting, when she got into the carriage she forgot to put on the warm fur cloak she had worn.
The next morning she complained of violent pain in her head, amounting to agony. The physician 371 who had attended her for the last weeks was called. He felt that the situation was very serious. She herself asked, "Is it not meningitis?" The trouble on the brain increased rapidly. She recognized her dear young nephew for a moment and her friendly hostess, but was unconscious of everything else. So, at 3.30 p.m., March 6, 1888, she passed quietly on to the rest which she so much needed. She did not know that her father had already preceded her.
The friends of the family who gathered to pay their last tribute of respect and love to the aged father were met at the threshold by the startling intelligence, "Louisa Alcott is dead," and a deeper sadness fell upon every heart. The old patriarch had gone to his rest in the fulness of time, "corn ripe for the sickle," but few realized how entirely his daughter had worn out her earthly frame. Her friends had hoped for renewed health and strength, and for even greater and nobler work from her with her ripened powers and greater ease and leisure.
Miss Alcott had made every arrangement for her death; and by her own wish the funeral service was very simple, in her father's rooms at Louisburg Square, and attended only by a few of her family and nearest friends. They read her exquisite poem to her mother, her father's noble tribute to her, and spoke of the earnestness and truth of her life. She was remembered as she would have wished to be. Her body was carried to Concord and placed in the beautiful cemetery of Sleepy Hollow where her dearest ones were already laid to rest. "Her boys" went beside her as "a guard of honor," and 372 stood around as she was placed across the feet of father, mother, and sister, that she might "take care of them as she had done all her life."
Of the silent grief of the bereaved family I will not speak, but the sound of mourning filled all the land, and was re-echoed from foreign shores. The children everywhere had lost their friend. Miss Alcott had entered into their hearts and revealed them to themselves. In her childish journal her oldest sister said, "I have not a secret from Louisa; I tell her everything, and am not afraid she will think me silly." It was this respect for the thought and life of children that gave Louisa Alcott her great power of winning their respect and affection. Nothing which was real and earnest to them seemed unimportant to her.
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