乔的社交圈令她十分快 乐，每日忙于工作为她挣得了面包，使她的努力成果更显甜美。虽然如此，她还是找时间从事文学创作。对一个有抱负的穷姑娘来说，现在支配她写作的目的是自然 的，可是她实现目的的方法不是最好的。她明白金钱能带来权力，因此，她决心拥有金钱和权力这两种东西。不只是用于她自己，而是用于她爱的人们，她爱他们胜 于爱自己。
经过长期游历和努力的工作以后，乔的那篇得奖小说似乎为她开辟了道路，她又写出了让人开怀的《空中楼阁》。然而，这场小说灾难使她一度丧失了勇气， 因为公共舆论是一个巨人，比她更勇敢的杰克们也被吓倒了，而杰克们向上爬的豆茎比她的更大。她像那个不朽的英雄一样，第一次尝试后休息了一会儿。假如我记 得不错的话，第一次尝试她跌了下来，一点没得到巨人可爱的财宝。但是乔身上"爬起来再试"的精神和杰克一样强，所以，这一次她从背阴的一面爬了上去，得到 了更多的战利品。但是丢掉的东西比钱袋要宝贵得多。
乔开始写轰动小说，在那些黑暗的日子里，既使是十全十美的美国人也读庸俗作品。她虚构了一个"动人的故事"，大胆地亲自将它送给了《火山周报》的编 辑达什伍德先生，这件事她谁也没告诉。她从未读过《瑞沙托斯裁缝》，但是，女人的直觉告诉她，对许多人来说，较之个性的价值或风度的魔力，服装的影响力更 加强大。所以，她穿上了她最好的衣服，说服自己既不激动也不紧张，勇敢地爬上了两段又暗又脏的楼梯，走进一间乱七八糟的屋子。屋子里烟雾缭绕，三个先生坐 在那里脚跷得比帽子还高。乔的出现并没有让他们劳神脱一下帽子。这种接待有点吓住了乔。她在门口犹豫了，非常尴尬地咕哝着—-“对不起，我在找《火山周 报》的办公室，我想见达什伍德先生。“跷得最高的一双脚落了下来，站起一位烟冒得最凶的先生。他仔细地用手指夹住香烟，往前跨了一步，点了点头。他脸上除 了困意没别的表情。乔感到不管怎样得结束这件事，于是她拿出手稿，笨口拙舌、断断续续地说出了为这个场合仔细准备的话，越说脸越红。
“不，先生，她有些经验。她的一个故事登在《巧言石旗帜报》上，还得了奖。“哦，是吗？“达什伍德先生迅速看了她一眼。这一眼似乎注意到了她所有的 穿着打扮，从帽子上的蝴蝶结到靴子上的钮扣。“好吧，你愿意就把手稿丢下来吧。眼下，我们手边这种东西多得不知道该怎么处理，不过，我会看它一眼的，下星 期给你答复。“现在，乔倒不愿意丢下手稿了，因为达什伍德先生一点也不适合她，可是，在那种情况下，她没有别的办法，只能鞠躬，然后走开。此时她显得格外 孤傲，每当她被惹恼了或感到窘迫时，总会这样。当时她又恼又窘，因为从先生们交换的会意的眼神看，十分明显她的小小虚构"我的朋友"被当成了个好笑话。编 辑关门时说了什么她没听清，但是引起一阵笑声，这些使她十分狼狈。她回了家，几乎决定不再去那儿了。她使劲地缝着围裙发泄着怨气。一两个小时以后便平静下 来能够笑对那个场面了。她盼望着下星期。
像大多数年轻的蹩脚作家一样，乔到国外去寻找人物和景致。她的舞台上出现了恶棍、伯爵、吉普赛人、尼姑、公爵夫人。这些人物如预期的那样，行为、精 神都贴近生活。读者们对语法、标点符号、可能性之类的琐碎小事并不挑剔，因而达什伍德先生貌似好心地以最低的稿酬允请她做他的专栏作家。他认为没有必要将 接受她的真正原因告诉她。事实上他雇用的一个作家因为别人开了更高的价而撒手不干了，卑鄙地让他陷入了困境。
她很快便对她的工作产生了兴趣，因为她瘪下去的钱包鼓了起来。一个个的星期过去了，她为明年夏天带贝思去山里准备的小积蓄开始增加了，虽然速度很 慢，但是确实在增加。满足中有件事使她不安，那就是她没有将这件事告诉家人。她有种感觉，爸爸妈妈不会赞许她的，可是她还是宁肯先随心干着，然后再请求原 谅。保守这个秘密很容易，因为故事没署她的名字。达什伍德先生当然不久就发现了真相，可是答应保持沉默。说也奇怪，他竟遵守了诺言。
但是，除了惊心动魄的故事，别的东西达什伍德先生一概拒绝，而这种小说一定要折磨读者的感情，不然就称不上惊险小说。要写惊险小说还得遍搜历史和传 奇，陆地和海洋，科学和艺术，政治卷宗和疯人院。乔不久就发现，她天真无邪的经历使她不大能看到构成社会基础的悲剧世界。因此从事务的角度出发，她开始用 独特的能源弥补她的不足。她急切想找到故事的素材，一心想着即便不能把故事策划得很熟练，也要使情节新颖。她到报纸里去搜寻事故、事件以及犯罪活动。她去 借阅有关毒药的书，使公共图书馆管理员起了疑心。她研究着大街上行人的脸，研究身边所有的人，不管是好人、坏人还是冷漠的人。她在古代的废墟中寻找事实或 虚构。它们太古老了，倒和新的一样新奇。她尽量利用有限的机会接触那些愚行、罪恶与苦难。她以为她干得相当成功，但是不知不觉地，她开始亵渎了妇女身上的 一些温柔的气质。
我不知道是什么帮助她了解人物，是莎士比亚的研究呢，还是女人向往诚实、勇敢、强壮这些气质的自然本能？乔一边将太阳底下最完美的气质赋予她想象中 的英雄，一边也发现了一个活生生的英雄。这个英雄虽然有许多人类的不完美之处，但是仍使她产生了兴趣。巴尔先生在一次谈话中建议她研究纯洁、真实、可爱的 人物，不管她是在哪儿发现这些人物的，并将这作为一种良好的写作训练，乔相信了她的话，冷静地转过身开始研究他--要是他知道她这样做的话，定会大吃一惊 的，因为令人尊敬的教授自认为自己是个小人物。
首先，为什么每个人都喜欢教授，这令乔迷惑不解。他既不富有也不伟大，既不年轻也不漂亮，无论在哪方面都不能算迷人、气派或者漂亮。然而，他像给人 温暖的火那样吸引人。人们自然地围绕在他身边，好像围在暖和的壁炉前。他贫穷，但似乎总是在给人东西；他是外国人，可每个人都是他的朋友；他已不年轻了， 可孩子般幸福快乐；他长相平平，还有点古怪，然而在许多人看来他是漂亮的，只为了他的缘故，大家痛快地原谅他的怪癖。乔常常观察他，想发现他的魅力所在。 最后她认定是仁爱之心产生的奇迹。他若是有些悲哀，便"头插在翅膀下伏着"，他只将光明的一面展示于世人。他的额头上有皱纹，但是时间老人似乎记得他对别 人非常和善，也就轻轻地触摸他。他嘴角的曲线令人愉快，那是对他的友好的话语、欢欣的笑容的一种纪念。他的眼睛既不冷漠，也不严厉。他的大手有一种温暖的 强大的控制力，这种控制力比语言表达得更充分。
乔很看重美德，也尊重才智，这是非常女性化的。有关教授的一个小发现更增加了她对他的敬重。没有人知道，在他出生的城市，他因他的学识和正直的人品 享有盛誉，受人尊敬。他自己从未说过。后来，一个同乡来看他，在和诺顿小姐谈话时说出了这个令人高兴的事实，乔是从诺顿小姐处得知的，因为巴尔先生从来没 说过，乔更喜欢了。尽管巴尔先生在美国是个可怜的语言教师，他在柏林却是个体面的教授，乔为此感到自豪。那个发现给他的生活添加了浪漫的佐料，大大诗化了 他其实、勤勉的生活。
乔去了酒会，她准备向那些伟大的人物鞠躬致敬。身处遥远的地方时，她就带着年轻人特有的热情崇拜这些人。然而，那天晚上，她对天才们的景仰之情受到 了严重的冲击。她发现伟大的人物毕竟也不过是男人和女人。过了一些时候，她才从这种发现中恢复过来。她带着崇敬之心，害羞地偷偷片了一眼一个诗人，他的诗 句使人联想到一个以"精神、火、露水"为生的太空人，可乔却看到他在满腔热情地大口吞吃着晚饭，那种热情烧红了他那智慧的脸庞，可以想象乔此时的沮丧。从 这个倒塌的偶像转过去，又发现了别的东西，这迅即排除了她浪漫的幻想。那个伟大的小说家像钟摆一样有规律地在两个圆酒瓶之间摆动着，那著名的天才竟然向一 个当代的斯塔尔夫人调着情，而她却怒视着另一个科琳，科琳在温和地挖苦她，她为了专心听那思想深邃的哲学家讲话，用计智胜了她。哲学家故作姿态地啜着茶， 好像要睡着了；那女子喋喋不休，使谈话无法进行。而那些科学名士们此刻忘掉了软体动物和冰川时期，聊起了艺术，一边专心致志地大口猛吃牡蛎和冰淇淋。那个 年轻的音乐家就像第二个奥菲士一样曾使整个城市着魔，现在他谈起了赛马。在场的英国名流们的代表碰巧是酒会中最普通的人。
酒会还未开到一半，乔的幻想完全破灭了。她在一个角落里坐下来清醒清醒。很快，巴尔先生也坐过来了，他看上去与这里的气氛格格不久。不久，几个哲学 家走上酒会讲坛轻松地谈起了各自喜爱的话题，举行了一场智力锦标赛。乔压根儿不懂这种谈话，但她还是欣赏这场谈话，尽管康德和黑格尔是她不知道的神，主场 与客场是莫名其妙的术语。谈话结束了，她头疼得厉害，这就是"出自她内心意识"的唯一产物。她渐渐明白过来，根据这些谈话者的观点，世界正被砸得粉碎，在 用新的、比以前好得多的原则重新组合，而宗教很少能被推论成无价值的东西，智力将是唯一的上帝。乔对哲学或任何一种玄学都一无所知，但是她听着谈话，产生 了一种莫名的激动，半是快乐，半是痛苦。她感到自己就像节日里放飞的小气球，被送进时间与空间里飘浮着。
现在，巴尔先生又变得缺乏自信起来，他不急着发表他的意见了，并不是他的意见动摇不定，而是他太诚挚、太认真了，不能轻易表达。他的目光扫过乔和其 他几个年轻人，他们都被耀眼的哲学火花吸引住了。教授拧起了眉，他极想说话。他担心某些易激动的年轻人会被这烟火引入岐途，结果发现展示会结束，只剩下燃 尽的爆竹棒，或者被灼伤的手。
他尽量忍着，但是，当有人请他发表意见时，他便诚实地表达了他的愤怒。他用雄辩的事实捍卫着宗教--雄辩使他蹩脚的英语变得动听起来，他那平常的脸 也变得漂亮了。他的仗打得艰难，因为那些聪明人很会辩论。他不知道什么时候给击败了，但是他以男子汉的气派坚持自己的观点。不知怎么回事，他谈着谈着，乔 感到世界又恢复了正常，持续这么长时间的古老信仰似乎比新的信仰要好，上帝并不是一种看不见的力量，永生也不是美丽的童话，而是幸运的事实。她感到自己又 稳稳地站在了地上，当巴尔先生住了口，乔想拍手感谢他。巴尔说得比那些人好，可是一点也没有说服那些人。
她既没拍手，也没感谢，可是她记住了那个场面，打心眼里尊敬他。她知道他在当时当地表达看法是费了一番劲的，他的良心不允许他保持沉默，她开始明白 气质是比金钱、地位、智力，或者美貌更好的财产。她感到，如同一个智者下的定义，要是高尚便是"真实、威望和善良的愿望"，那么，她的朋友弗里德里克·巴 尔不仅善良，而且高尚。
听一个德国人朗读席勒的作品是件相当吸引人的事情。朗读完毕做功课，这也是件高兴事，因为那天晚上乔心情快乐，那顶三角帽使她的眼睛欢乐地闪着光。 教授不知道她怎么回事，最后忍不住了，他略带惊奇地问--“马奇小姐，你当着老师的面笑什么？你不尊重我了，这样顽皮？““先生，你忘了把帽子拿下来，我 怎么尊重你？“乔说。
他拆开帽子，非常厌恶地说：“我希望这种报纸别进入这座房子。它们既不适合孩子们，也不适合年轻人。报纸办得不好，我忍受不了那些干这种缺德事的 人。“乔瞥了一眼报纸，看到一幅可爱的画，画上有一个疯子，一具尸体，一个恶棍和一条毒蛇，她不喜欢这个。但并非由于不喜欢，而是一种担心的冲动使她打开 了报纸，因为有那么一瞬间她想象那是《火山周报》。然而那不是的。她又想到即便是《火山周报》，即便上面有她的故事，没有她的署名，也就不会出卖她。她的 恐慌平息了，然而她的神情，她羞红了的脸还是出卖了她。教授虽然心不在焉，但觉察到的事情比别人想象的多得多。他知道乔在写作，不止一次在报社遇到过她， 可由于乔从来不说起此事，他虽然极想读她的作品，还是从不问及。现在他突然想到，她在做一件自己不好意思承认的事，这使他担忧。他不像许多别的人那样对自 己说：“这不关我的事，我无权过问。“他只记得她是个贫穷的年轻姑娘，远离父母无法得到妈妈的爱、爸爸的关怀。他受一种冲动的驱使要帮助她。这种冲动来得 迅速、自然，就像伸手去救助一个掉进水坑的婴儿那样。这些念头在他脑中一闪而过，他脸上没露一丝痕迹。报纸翻过去了，乔的针穿上了线。
到了这时，他已准备好说话了。他相当自然但是非常严肃地说--“对，你把报纸拿开是对的，依我看，好的年轻姑娘不应该看这种东西。这些东西使一些人 愉快，但是我宁愿给我的孩子们玩火药，也不给他们读这种破烂东西。““并不是所有的都坏，只是愚蠢，你知道，假如有人需要它，我看提供它就没什么伤害。许 多体面人就用这种叫做轰动小说的东西正当地谋生，“乔说。她用力刮着衣裙，针过处留下一条小细线。
“有人需要威士忌，但我想你我都不会去卖它。假如那些体面人知道他们造成了什么样的伤害，他们就不会认为他们的谋生方式是正当的了。他们没有权利在 小糖果里放毒药，再让小孩子们吃。不，他们应该想一想，做这种事之前先得扫除掉肮脏的东西。“巴尔先生激烈地说着，揉皱了报纸走到火边。三角帽变成了烟， 从烟囱里散发出去，不再为害人间了。乔一动不动地坐在那里，好像那火烧到了她，因为烧过帽子后很长时间，乔的面孔还在发烧。
乔想象着楼上她那一堆报纸会成为怎样的一团火。此刻，那好不容易挣来的钱沉重地压着她的良心。接着她又宽慰自己：“我的故事不像那些，只是愚蠢，根 本不坏，所以我不用担心。“她拿起书本，带着好学的表情问：“我们接着学，先生？现在我会非常用心，非常认真。““我倒希望这样。“他只说了这一句，但是 言外之意比她想象的要多。他严肃而又和善地看着她，使她感到《火山周报》几个字仿佛以粗体字印在她的额头。
“我想，我还没有造成太大伤害，可以保留这些钱作为我花掉时间的报酬，“她说。考虑良久，她又急躁地接着说：“我真希望我没有良心，这太麻烦了。要 是我做不好事时不在乎，不感到不安，那我就会过得极好。有时我不由希望爸爸妈妈对这件事不那样苛求。“哦，乔，别那样希望了，应该感谢上帝，爸爸妈妈确是 那样苛求，打心眼里可怜那些没有这样的保护者的人们吧。保护者用原则将他们围住，这些原则在急躁的年轻人看来可能就像监狱的围墙，但它们被证明确实是妇人 们培养良好气质的基矗乔没有再写追求轰动效应的故事，她认为钱偿付不了她所受到的那份轰动。像她那一类人常做的那样，她走了另一个极端。她学了一系列课 程，研究了舍伍德夫人、埃奇沃思小姐和汉娜·摩尔，然后写出了一个故事，故事里的道德说教那样强烈，以致于把它叫做小品文或说教文更为恰当。她从一开始就 心存疑虑，因为她活跃的想像力和女孩家的浪漫心理使她对这种新的写作风格感到不安，就像化装舞会时穿上个世纪的僵硬的累赘服装一样。她把这个说教式的佳作 送往几个市场，结果没找到买主。她不得不同意达什伍德先生的说法，道德没有销路。
后来，她又试着写了个儿童故事。要不是她图利想多要几个臭钱，这个故事她能轻易出手的。唯一向她提供足够的钱，使她值得一试儿童文学的人是一位令人 尊敬的先生。这位先生觉得他的使命就是让世人都转而信奉他的教义。但是，虽然乔喜欢为孩子们写作，她还是不能同意把所有不去特定主日学校上学的顽皮孩子都 写成被熊吃了，或者被疯牛挑了，而去上学的好孩子则得到各种各样的天赐之福，从金色的姜饼，到他们离开尘世时护送的天使，天使们还口齿不清地唱着赞美诗或 者布着道。因此，在这样的考验下，乔没有写出任何作品。她盖上了墨水台，一时谦恭起来，这种谦恭非常有益。她说--“我什么也不懂了，我要等懂了以后再 试。同时，如果我不能写出更好的东西。我就'扫除掉肮脏的东西'，这样至少是诚实的。“这个决定证明，她从豆茎上的第二次摔落对她有些好处。
当她进行这种内心革命时，她的外在生活和平常一样忙碌，没有风波。假使她有时看着严肃或者有点悲哀，除了巴尔教授，没人觉察得到。他静静地观察她， 乔根本不知道他在观察她是否接受了并获益于他的责备，然而乔经受住了考验，他满意了。虽然他们之间没有言语交流，他知道她已经停止写作了。这不光光是从她 右手的食指猜测出来的，现在她的食指不再沾有墨迹了。她的晚上在楼下度过了，在报社也不再能遇上她了。她以顽强的耐力学习着。这一切使他确信，她决心全神 贯注于一些有用的事，即便这些事并不都是她想做的。
他在许多方面帮助她，不愧为真正的朋友。乔感到幸福，因为她不再写那些小说了。除了德语，她还学习其他的课程，为她自己生活中的轰动故事打着基矗在 这个漫长的冬天，她的心中为愉悦之情所充满。六月，她离开了柯克太太。告别之时，每个人都显得很难过，孩子们尤其没法安慰。巴尔先生的满头头发直竖着，因 为当他心烦意乱时，总是把头发揉得乱七八糟。
“是的，我的男孩特迪。我为他非常自豪，也希望你见见他。“然后乔抬起头来，根本没意识到什么，只想着介绍他们两个见面时的快乐。巴尔先生脸上的某 种神色使她突然想起，也许劳里不仅仅是她"最要好的朋友"。正是因为她特别希望显出没事儿的神情，她开始不自觉地脸红了。她越不想这样，脸就越红。要不是 坐在她膝上的蒂娜，她真不知道事情会怎样收常幸好，那孩子动情地要拥抱她，于是她顺势将脸转过去了一会儿。她希望教授没觉察，但是他觉察了，也从瞬间的焦 虑转为平常的神情。他诚挚地说--“我可能抽不出时间去参加毕业典礼，但是我祝愿那位朋友大获成功。祝你们大家幸福。上帝保佑你！“说完，他热情地和乔握 了手，然后用肩膀驮起蒂娜离开了。
Though very happy in the social atmosphere about her, andvery busy with the daily work that earned her bread and made itsweeter for the effort, Jo still found time for literary labors.The purpose which now took possession of her was a natural oneto a poor and ambitious girl, but the means she took to gainher end were not the best. She saw that money conferred power,therefore, she resolved to have, not to be used for herself alone,but for those whom she loved more than life.
The dream of filling home with comforts, giving Beth everythingshe wanted, from strawberries in winter to an organ in her bedroom,going abroad herself, and always having more than enough,so that she might indulge in the luxury of charity, had beenfor years Jo's most cherished castle in the air.
The prize-story experience had seemed to open a way whichmight, after long traveling and much uphill work, lead to thisdelightful chateau en Espagne. But the novel disaster quenchedher courage for a time, for public opinion is a giant which hasfrightened stouter-hearted Jacks on bigger beanstalks than hers.Like that immortal hero, she reposed awhile after the firstattempt, which resulted in a tumble and the least lovely of thegiant's treasures, if I remember rightly. But the `up againand take another' spirit was as strong in Jo as in Jack, soshe scrambled up on the shady side this time and got morebooty, but nearly left behind her what was far more preciousthan the moneybags.
She took to writing sensation stories, for in those darkages, even all-perfect America read rubbish. She told no one,but concocted a `thrilling tale', and boldly carried it herselfto Mr. Dashwood, editor of the Weekly Volcano. She hadnever read Sartor Resartus, but she had a womanly instinctthat clothes possess an influence more powerful over manythan the worth of character or the magic of manners. So shedressed herself in her best, and trying to persuade herselfthat she was neither excited nor nervous, bravely climbed twopairs of dark and dirty stairs to find herself in a disorderlyroom, a cloud of cigar smoke, and the presence of three gentlemen,sitting with their heels rather higher than their hats,which articles of dress none of them took the trouble to removeon her appearance. somewhat daunted by this reception, Jo hesitatedon the threshold, murmuring in much embarrassment...
"Excuse me, I was looking for the Weekly Volcano office.I wished to see Mr. Dashwood."
Down went the highest pair of heels, up rose the smokiestgentleman, and carefully cherishing his cigar between hisfingers, he advanced with a nod and a countenance expressiveof nothing but sleep. Feeling that she must get through thematter somehow, Jo produced her manuscript and, blushingredder and redder with each sentence, blundered out fragmentsof the little speech carefully prepared for the occasion.
"A friend of mine desired me to offer--a story--just asan experiment--would like your opinion--be glad to write moreif this suits."
While she blushed and blundered, Mr. Dashwood had takenthe manuscript, and was turning over the leaves with a pairof rather dirty fingers, and casting critical glances up anddown the neat pages.
"Not a first attempt, I take it?" observing that thepages were numbered, covered only on one side, and not tiedup with a ribbon--sure sign of a novice.
"No, sir. She has had some experience, and got a prizefor a tale in the BLARNEYSTONE BANNER."
"Oh, did she?" And Mr. Dashwood gave JO a quick look,which seemed to take note of everything she had on, from thebow in her bonnet to the buttons on her boots. "Well, youcan leave it, if you like. We've more of this sort of thingon hand than we know what to do with at present, but I'll runmy eye over it, and give you an answer next week."
Now, Jo did not like to leave it, for Mr. Dashwood didn'tsuit her at all, but, under the circumstances, there was nothingfor her to do but bow and walk away, looking particularly talland dignified, as she was apt to do when nettled or abashed.Just then she was both, for it was perfectly evident from theknowing glances exchanged among the gentlemen that her littlefiction of `my friend' was considered a good joke, and alaugh, produced by some inaudible remark of the editor, ashe closed the door, completed her discomfiture. Half resolvingnever to return, she went home, and worked off herirritation by stitching pinafores vigorously, and in anhour or two was cool enough to laugh over the scene and longfor next week.
When she went again, Mr. Dashwood was alone, whereat sherejoiced. Mr. Dashwood was much wider awake than before,which was agreeable and Mr. Dashwood was not too deeply absorbedin a cigar to remember his manners, so the secondinterview was much more comfortable than the first.
"We'll take this (editors never say I), if you don'tobject to a few alterations. It's too long, but omittingthe passages I've marked will make it just the right length,"he said, in a businesslike tone.
Jo hardly knew her own MS again, so crumpled and underscoredwere its pages and paragraphs, but feeling as a tenderpatent might on being asked to cut off her baby's legs inorder that it might fit into a new cradle, she looked at themarked passages and was surprised to find that all the moralreflections--which she had carefully put in as ballast formuch romance--had been stricken out.
"But, Sir, I thought every story should have some sort ofa moral, so I took care to have a few of my sinners repent."
Mr. Dashwoods's editorial gravity relaxed into a smile, forJo had forgotten her `friend', and spoken as only an authorcould.
"People want to be amused, not preached at, you know. Moralsdon't sell nowadays." Which was not quite a correct statement,by the way.
"You think it would do with these alterations, then?"
"Yes, it's a new plot, and pretty well worked up--languagegood, and so on," was Mr. Dashwood's affable reply.
"What do you--that is, what compensation--" began Jo, notexactly knowing how to express herself.
"Oh, yes, well, we give from twenty-five to thirty forthings of this sort. Pay when it comes out," returned Mr. Dashwood,as if that point had escaped him. Such trifles do escapethe editorial mind, it is said.
"Very well, you can have it," said Jo, handing back thestory with a satisfied air, for after the dollar-a-column work,even twenty-five seemed good pay.
"Shall I tell my friend you will take another if she has onebetter than this?" asked Jo, unconscious of her little slip ofthe tongue, and emboldened by her success.
"Well, we'll look at it. Can't promise to take it. Tell herto make it short and spicy, and never mind the moral. What namewould your friend like to put on it?" in a careless tone.
"None at all, if you please, she doesn't wish her name toappear and has no nom de plume," said Jo, blushing in spite ofherself.
"Just as she likes, of course. The tale will be out next week.Will you call for the money, or shall I send it?" asked Mr. Dashwood,who felt a natural desire to know who his new contributor might be.
"I'll call. Good morning, Sir."
As she departed, Mr. Dashwood put up his feet, with the gracefulremark, "Poor and proud, as usual, but she'll do."
Following Mr. Dashwood's directions, and making Mrs. Northburyher model, Jo rashly took a plunge into the frothy sea of sensationalliterature, but thanks to the life preserver thrown her by a friend,she came up again not much the worse for her ducking.
Like most young scribblers, she went abroad for her charactersand scenery, and banditti, counts, gypsies, nuns, and duchessesappeared upon her stage, and played their parts with asmuch accuracy and spirit as could be expected. Her readerswere not particular about such trifles as grammar, punctuation,and probability, and Mr. Dashwood graciously permitted her tofill his columns at the lowest prices, not thinking it necessaryto tell her that the real cause of his hospitality was thefact that one of his hacks, on being offered higher wages, hadbasely left him in the lurch.
She soon became interested in her work, for her emaciatedpurse grew stout, and the little hoard she was making to takeBeth to the mountains next summer grew slowly but surely asthe weeks passed. One thing disturbed her satisfaction, andthat was that she did not tell them at home. She had a feelingthat Father and Mother would not approve, and preferred to haveher own way first, and beg pardon afterward. It was easy tokeep her secret, for no name appeared with her stories. Mr.Dashwood had of course found it out very soon, but promisedto be dumb, and for a wonder kept his word.
She thought it would do her no harm, for she sincerelymeant to write nothing of which she would be ashamed, andquieted all pricks of conscience by anticipations of thehappy minute when she should show her earnings and laugh overher well-kept secret.
But Mr. Dashwood rejected any but thrilling tales, and asthrills could not be produced except by harrowing up the soulsof the readers, history and romance, land and sea, science andart, police records and lunatic asylums, had to be ransackedfor the purpose. Jo soon found that her innocent experiencehad given her but few glimpses of the tragic world whichunderlies society, so regarding it in a business light, she setabout supplying her deficiencies with characteristic energy.Eager to find material for stories, and bent on making themoriginal in plot, if not masterly in execution, she searchednewspapers for accidents, incidents, and crimes. She excitedthe suspicions of public librarians by asking for works onpoisons. She studied faces in the street, and characters,good, bad, and indifferent, all about her. She delved inthe dust of ancient times for facts or fictions so old thatthey were as good as new, and introduced herself to folly, sin,and misery, as well as her limited opportunities allowed. Shethought she was prospering finely, but unconsciously she wasbeginning to desecrate some of the womanliest attributes of awoman's character. She was living in bad society, and imaginarythough it was, its influence affected her, for she wasfeeding heart and fancy on dangerous and unsubstantial food,and was fast brushing the innocent bloom from her nature bya premature acquaintance with the darker side of life, whichcomes soon enough to all of us.
She was beginning to feel rather than see this, for muchdescribing of other people's passions and feelings set herto studying and speculating about her own. a morbid amusementin which healthy young minds do not voluntarily indulge.Wrongdoing always brings its own punishment, and when Jomost needed hers, she got it.
I don't know whether the study of Shakespeare helped herto read character, or the natural instinct of a woman for whatwas honest, brave, and strong, but while endowing her imaginaryheroes with every perfection under the sun, Jo was discoveringa live hero, who interested her in spite of many human imperfections.Mr. Bhaer, in one of their conversations, had advisedher to study simple, true, and lovely characters, wherever shefound them, as good training for a writer. Jo took him at hisword, for she coolly turned round and studied him--a proceedingwhich would have much surprised him, had he know it, for theworthy Professor was very humble in his own conceit.
Why everybody liked him was what puzzled Jo, at first. Hewas neither rich nor great, young nor handsome, in no respectwhat is called fascinating, imposing, or brilliant, and yethe was as attractive as a genial fire, and people seemed togather about him as naturally as about a warm hearth. He waspoor, yet always appeared to be giving something away; astranger, yet everyone was his friend; no longer young, butas happy-hearted as a boy; plain and peculiar, yet his facelooked beautiful to many, and his oddities were freely forgivenfor his sake. Jo often watched him, trying to discoverthe charm, and at last decided that it was benevolence whichworked the miracle. If he had any sorrow, `it sat with itshead under its wing', and he turned only his sunny side to theworld. There were lines upon his forehead, but Time seemedto have touched him gently, remembering how kind he was toothers. The pleasant curves about his mouth were the memorialsof many friendly words and cheery laughs, his eyes were nevercold or hard, and his big hand had a warm, strong graspthat was more expressive than words.
His very clothes seemed to partake of the hospitable natureof the wearer. They looked as if they were at ease, and likedto make him comfortable. His capacious waistcoat was sugges-tive of a large heart underneath. His rusty coat had a socialair, and the baggy pockets plainly proved that little handsoften went in empty and came out full. His very boots werebenevolent, and his collars never stiff and raspy like other people's.
"That's it!" said Jo to herself, when she at length discoveredthat genuine good will toward one's fellow men could beautifyand dignify even a stout German teacher, who shoveled in his dinner,darned his own socks, and was burdened with the name of Bhaer.
Jo valued goodness highly, but she also possessed a mostfeminine respect for intellect, and a little discovery whichshe made about the Professor added much to her regard for him.He never spoke of himself, and no one ever knew that in hisnative city he had been a man much honored and esteemed forlearning and integrity, till a countryman came to see him.He never spoke of himself, and in a conversation with MissNorton divulged the pleasing fact. From her Jo learned it,and liked it all the better because Mr. Bhaer had never toldit. She felt proud to know that he was an honored Professorin Berlin, though only a poor language-master in America,and his homely, hard-working life was much beautified by thespice of romance which this discovery gave it.Another and a better gift than intellect was shown her ina most unexpected manner. Miss Norton had the entree intomost society, which Jo would have had no chance of seeing butfor her. The solitary woman felt an interest in the ambitiousgirl, and kindly conferred many favors of this sort both on Joand the Professor. She took them with her one night to a selectsymposium, held in honor of several celebrities.
Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the mighty oneswhom she had worshiped with youthful enthusiasm afar off. Buther reverence for genius received a severe shock that night,and it took her some time to recover from the discovery thatthe great creatures were only men and women after all. Imagineher dismay, on stealing a glance of timid admiration at thepoet whose lines suggested an ethereal being fed on `spirit,fire, and dew', to behold him devouring his supper with anardor which flushed his intellectual countenance. Turningas from a fallen idol, she made other discoveries whichrapidly dispelled her romantic illusions. The great novelistvibrated between two decanters with the regularity of a pendulum;the famous divine flirted openly with one of theMadame de Staels of the age, who looked daggers at anotherCorinne, who was amiably satirizing her, after outmaneuveringher in efforts to absorb the profound philosopher, who imbibedtea Johnsonianly and appeared to slumber, the loquacity of thelady rendering speech impossible. The scientific celebrities,forgetting their mollusks and glacial periods, gossiped aboutart, while devoting themselves to oysters and ices withcharacteristic energy; the young musician, who was charmingthe city like a second Orpheus, talked horses; and the specimenof the British nobility present happened to be the most ordinaryman of the party.
Before the evening was half over, Jo felt so completelydisillusioned, that she sat down in a corner to recover herself.Mr. Bhaer soon joined her, looking rather out of his element,and presently several of the philosophers, each mounted on hishobby, came ambling up to hold an intellectual tournament inthe recess. The conversations were miles beyond Jo's comprehension,but she enjoyed it, though Kant and Hegel were unknowngods, the Subjective and Objective unintelligible terms, andthe only thing `evolved from her inner consciousness' was abad headache after it was all over. It dawned upon her graduallythat the world was being picked to pieces, and put together onnew and, according to the talkers, on infinitely better principlesthan before, that religion was in a fair way to bereasoned into nothingness, and intellect was to be the onlyGod. Jo knew nothing about philosophy or metaphysics of anysort, but a curious excitement, half pleasurable, half painful,came over her as she listened with a sense of being turnedadrift into time and space, like a young balloon out on a holiday.
She looked round to see how the Professor liked it, andfound him looking at her with the grimest expression she hadever seen him wear. He shook his head and beckoned her tocome away, but she was fascinated just then by the freedomof Speculative Philosophy, and kept her seat, trying to findout what the wise gentlemen intended to rely upon afterthey had annihilated all the old beliefs.
Now, Mr. Bhaer was a diffident man and slow to offer hisown opinions, not because they were unsettled, but too sincereand earnest to be lightly spoken. As he glanced from Joto several other young people, attracted by the brilliancyof the philosophic pyrotechnics, he knit his brows and longedto speak, fearing that some inflammable young soul would beled astray by the rockets, to find when the display was overthat they had only an empty stick or a scorched hand.
He bore it as long as he could, but when he was appealedto for an opinion, he blazed up with honest indignation anddefended religion with all the eloquence of truth--an eloquencewhich made his broken English musical and his plainface beautiful. He had a hard fight, for the wise men arguedwell, but he didn't know when he was beaten and stood to hiscolors like a man. Somehow, as he talked, the world gotright again to Jo. The old beliefs, that had lasted so long,seemed better than the new. God was not a blind force, andimmortality was not a pretty fable, but a blessed fact. Shefelt as if she had solid ground under her feet again, andwhen Mr. Bhaer paused, outtalked but not one whit convinced,Jo wanted to clap her hands and thank him.
She did neither, but she remembered the scene, and gavethe Professor her heartiest respect, for she knew it cost himan effort to speak out then and there, because his consciencewould not let him be silent. She began to see that characteris a better possession than money, rank, intellect, or beauty,and to feel that if greatness is what a wise man has definedit to be, `truth, reverence, and good will', then her friendfriedrich Bhaer was not only good, but great.
This belief strengthened daily. She valued his esteem,she coveted his respect, she wanted to be worthy of his friendship,and just when the wish was sincerest, she came near tolosing everything. It all grew out of a cocked hat, for oneevening the Professor came in to give Jo her lesson with apaper soldier cap on his head, which Tina had put there andhe had forgotten to take off.
"It's evident he doesn't look in his glass before comingdown," thought Jo, with a smile, as he said "Goot efening,"and sat soberly down, quite unconscious of the ludicrouscontrast between his subject and his headgear, for he wasgoing to read her the Death of Wallenstein.
She said nothing at first, for she liked to hear him laughout his big, hearty laugh when anything funny happened, so sheleft him to discover it for himself, and presently forgot allabout it, for to hear a German read Schiller is rather an absorbingoccupation. After the reading came the lesson, whichwas a lively one, for Jo was in a gay mood that night, andthe cocked hat kept her eyes dancing with merriment. TheProfessor didn't know what to make of her, and stopped atlast to ask with an air of mild surprise that was irresistible...
"Mees Marsch, for what do you laugh in your master's face?Haf you no respect for me, that you go on so bad?"
"How can I be respectful, Sir, when you forget to takeyour hat off?" said Jo.
Lifting his hand to his head, the absent-minded Professorgravely felt and removed the little cocked hat, looked at it aminute, and then threw back his head and laughed like a merrybass viol.
"Ah! I see him now, it is that imp Tina who makes me afool with my cap. Well, it is nothing, but see you, if thislesson goes not well, you too shall wear him."
But the lesson did not go at all for a few minutes becauseMr. Bhaer caught sight of a picture on the hat, and unfolding it,said with great disgust, "I wish these papers did not come in the house.They are not for children to see, nor young people to read.It is not well, and I haf no patience with those who make this harm."
Jo glanced at the sheet and saw a pleasing illustrationcomposed of a lunatic, a corpse, a villian, and a viper. Shedid not like it, but the impulse that made her turn it overwas not one of displeasure but fear, because for a minuteshe fancied the paper was the Volcano. It was not, however,and her panic subsided as she remembered that even if ithad been and one of her own tales in it, there would havebeen no name to betray her. She had betrayed herself, however,by a look and a blush, for though an absent man, theProfessor saw a good deal more than people fancied. Heknew that Jo wrote, and had met her down among the newspaperoffices more than once, but as she never spoke of it,he asked no questions in spite of a strong desire to see herwork. Now it occurred to him that she was doing what shewas ashamed to own, and it troubled him. He did not say tohimself, "It is none of my business. I've no right to sayanything," as many people would have done. He only rememberedthat she was young and poor, a girl far away frommother's love and father's care, and he was moved to helpher with an impulse as quick and natural as that whichwould prompt him to put out his hand to save a baby froma puddle. All this flashed through his mind in a minute,but not a trace of it appeared in his face, and by thetime the paper was turned, and Jo's needle threaded, hewas ready to say quite naturally, but very gravely...
"Yes, you are right to put it from you. I do not thinkthat good young girls should see such things. They are madepleasant to some, but I would more rather give my boys gunpowderto play with than this bad trash."
"All may not be bad, only silly, you know, and if thereis a demand for it, I don't see any harm in supplying it.Many very respectable people make an honest living out ofwhat are called sensation stories," said Jo, scratching gathersso energetically that a row of little slits followed her pin.
"There is a demand for whisky, but I think you and I donot care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harmthey did, they would not feel that the living was honest. Theyhaf no right to put poison in the sugarplum, and let the smallones eat it. No, they should think a little, and sweep mud inthe street before they do this thing."
Mr. Bhaer spoke warmly, and walked to the fire, crumplingthe paper in his hands. Jo sat still, looking as if the firehad come to her, for her cheeks burned long after the cockedhat had turned to smoke and gone harmlessly up the chimney.
"I should like much to send all the rest after him," mutteredthe Professor, coming back with a relieved air.
Jo thought what a blaze her pile of papers upstairs wouldmake, and her hard-earned money lay rather heavily on her conscienceat that minute. Then she thought consolingly to herself,"Mine are not like that, they are only silly, never bad,so I won't be worried," and taking up her book, she said,with a studious face, "Shall we go on, Sir? I'll be verygood and proper now."
"I shall hope so," was all he said, but he meant more thanshe imagined, and the grave, kind look he gave her made herfeel as if the words Weekly Volcano were printed in largetype on her forehead.
As soon as she went to her room, she got out her papers,and carefully reread every one of her stories. Being a littleshortsighted, Mr. Bhaer sometimes used eye glasses, and Johad tried them once, smiling to see how they magnified thefine print of her book. Now she seemed to have on the Professor'smental or moral spectacles also, for the faults of thesepoor stories glared at her dreadfully and filled her with dismay.
"They are trash, and will soon be worse trash if I goon, for each is more sensational than the last. I've goneblindly on, hurting myself and other people, for the sake ofmoney. I know it's so, for I can't read this stuff in soberearnest without being horribly ashamed of it, and what shouldI do if they were seen at home or Mr. Bhaer got hold of them?"
Jo turned hot at the bare idea, and stuffed the whole bundleinto her stove, nearly setting the chimney afire with the blaze.
"Yes, that's the best place for such inflammable nonsense.I'd better burn the house down, I suppose, than let otherpeople blow themselves up with my gunpowder," she thought asshe watched the Demon of the Jura whisk away, a little blackcinder with fiery eyes.
But when nothing remained of all her three month's workexcept a heap of ashes and the money in her lap, Jo lookedsober, as she sat on the floor, wondering what she ought todo about her wages.
"I think I haven't done much harm yet, and may keep thisto pay for my time," she said, after a long meditation, addingimpatiently, "I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's soinconvenient. If I didn't care about doing right, and didn'tfeel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally.I can't help wishing sometimes, that Mother and Father hadn'tbeen so particular about such things."
Ah, Jo, instead of wishing that, thank God that `Fatherand Mother were particular'. and pity from your heart thosewho have no such guardians to hedge them round with principleswhich may seem like prison walls to impatient youth,but which will prove sure foundations to build character uponin womanhood.
Jo wrote no more sensational stories, deciding that themoney did not pay for her share of the sensation, but goingto the other extreme, as is the way with people of her stamp,she took a course of Mrs. Sherwood, Miss Edgeworth, and HannahMore, and then produced a tale which might have been moreproperly called an essay or a sermon, so intensely moralwas it. She had her doubts about it from the beginning, forher lively fancy and girlish romance felt as ill at ease in thenew style as she would have done masquerading in the stiffand cumbrous costume of the last century. She sent this didacticgem to several markets, but it found no purchaser,and she was inclined to agree with Mr. Dashwood that moralsdidn't sell.
Then she tried a child's story, which she could easily havedisposed of if she had not been mercenary enough to demand filthylucre for it. The only person who offered enough to make itworth her while to try juvenile literature was a worthy gentlemanwho felt it his mission to convert all the world to hisparticular belief. But much as she liked to write for children,Jo could not consent to depict all her naughty boys asbeing eaten by bears or tossed by mad bulls because they didnot go to a particular Sabbath school, nor all the good infantswho did go as rewarded by every kind of bliss, from gildedgingerbread to escorts of angels when they departed this lifewith psalms or sermons on their lisping tongues. So nothingcame of these trials, land Jo corked up her inkstand, andsaid in a fit of very wholesome humility...
"I don't know anything. I'll wait until I do before I tryagain, and meantime, `sweep mud in the street' if I can't dobetter, that's honest, at least." Which decision proved thather second tumble down the beanstalk had done her some good.
While these internal revolutions were going on, her externallife had been as busy and uneventful as usual, and if shesometimes looked serious or a little sad no one observedit but Professor Bhaer. He did it so quietly that Jo neverknew he was watching to see if she would accept and profit byhis reproof, but she stood the test, and he was satisfied, forthough no words passed between them, he knew that she hadgiven up writing. Not only did he guess it by the fact thatthe second finger of her right hand was no longer inky, butshe spent her evenings downstairs now, was met no more amongnewspaper offices, and studied with a dogged patience, whichassured him that she was bent on occupying her mind withsomething useful, if not pleasant.
He helped her in many ways, proving himself a true friend,and Jo was happy, for while her pen lay idle, she was learningother lessons besides German, and laying a foundation for thesensation story of her own life.
It was a pleasant winter and a long one, for she did notleave Mrs. Kirke till June. Everyone seemed sorry when the timecame. The children were inconsolable, and Mr. Bhaer's hairstuck straight up all over his head, for he always rumpled itwildly when disturbed in mind.
"Going home? Ah, you are happy that you haf a home to goin," he said, when she told him, and sat silently pulling hisbeard in the corner, while she held a little levee on that lastevening.
She was going early, so she bade them all goodbye overnight,and when his turn came, she said warmly, "Now, Sir, you won'tforget to come and see us, if you ever travel our way, will you?I'll never forgive you if you do, for I want them all to know myfriend."
"Do you? Shall I come?" he asked, looking down at her withan eager expression which she did not see.
"Yes, come next month. Laurie graduates then, and you'denjoy commencement as something new."
"That is your best friend, of whom you speak?" he said inan altered tone.
"Yes, my boy Teddy. I'm very proud of him and should likeyou to see him."
Jo looked up then, quite unconscious of anything but herown pleasure in the prospect of showing them to one another.Something in Mr. Bhaer's face suddenly recalled the fact thatshe might find Laurie more than a `best friend', and simplybecause she particularly wished not to look as if anything wasthe matter, she involuntarily began to blush, and the more shetried not to, the redder she grew. If it had not been for Tinaon her knee. She didn't know what would have become of her.Fortunately the child was moved to hug her, so she managed tohide her face an instant, hoping the Professor did not see it.But he did, and his own changed again from that momentary anxietyto its usual expression, as he said cordially...
"I fear I shall not make the time for that, but I wish the friendmuch success, and you all happiness. Gott bless you!" And with that,he shook hands warmly, shouldered Tina, and went away.
But after the boys were abed, he sat long before his firewith the tired look on his face and the `heimweh', or homesickness,lying heavy at his heart. Once, when he rememberedJo as she sat with the little child in her lap and that newsoftness in her face, he leaned his head on his hands a minute,and then roamed about the room, as if in search of somethingthat he could not find.
"It is not for me, I must not hope it now," he said to himself,with a sigh that was almost a groan. Then, as if reproach-ing himself for the longing that he could not repress, he wentand kissed the two tousled heads upon the pillow, took down hisseldom-used meerschaum, and opened his Plato.
He did his best and did it manfully, but I don't think he foundthat a pair of rampant boys, a pipe, or even the divine Plato,were very satisfactory substitutes for wife and child at home.
Early as it was, he was at the station next morning to seeJo off, and thanks to him, she began her solitary journey withthe pleasant memory of a familiar face smiling its farewell, abunch of violets to keep her company, and best of all, the happythought, "Well, the winter's gone, and I've written no books,earned no fortune, but I've made a friend worth having and I'lltry to keep him all my life."