艾美的训言对劳里产生 了作用，当然，他到很久以后才肯承认这一点。男人们很少这么承认，因为当女人们提出劝告时，男人们要说服自己那正是他们打算做的事，然后才会接受建议，并 依此行事。如果成功了，功劳归于女性一半；如果失败了，他们便慷慨地全部归罪于她们。劳里回到了爷爷身边，好几个星期那样尽职地不离左右，以致老先生宣称 尼斯的气候奇妙地使他变好了，最好他再去试试。没有什么事更使那年轻人喜欢的了。可是，接受了那场训话后，大象也拖不回去他了，自尊心也不容许。每当想去 那儿的渴望变得十分强烈时，他便重复那些给他留下深刻印象的话语，来坚定不去的决心。“我看不起你。““去干些出色的事情使她爱你。“劳里常在脑子里考虑 这件事，不久便迫使自己承认，他确实是自私、懒散的。可是，当一个人有很大的痛苦时，难道不应该宽容他各种狂妄古怪的行为，直到他的痛苦消歇？他感到他那 遭受挫折的爱情现在已经消亡，虽然他不会停止哀悼它，也没必要夸示地戴着那个丧章。乔不肯爱他，但他可以做些什么，来证明姑娘的拒绝不会毁了他的生活，并 能使她尊重他，赞赏他。他以前一直打算做些什么的，艾美的建议完全不必要。他只是一直等着体面地埋葬掉前面所说的受挫的爱情，既然这件事已经完成了，他觉 得已准备好"掩藏起受创的心灵，继续苦干"。
就像歌德那样，有了欢乐或者悲伤，就将它放进歌中。所以劳里决心用音乐来抚慰失恋的痛苦，他要谱一首安魂曲，那曲子将折磨乔的心灵，打动每一位听曲 者。因此，当老先生再次发现他烦躁不安、心情忧郁，命他离开时，他便去了维也纳。那里他有一些音乐界的朋友，他开始着手工作，下定决心要出人头地。但是， 也不知是他的痛苦太大，音乐体现不了，还是音乐太微妙不能解救人类之苦，他不久就发现目前他还谱不了安魂曲。显而易见，他的脑子还未处于正常的工作状态， 他的思想需要净化。因为，常常在他写出的一段悲哀的曲子中间，他会发觉自己哼着舞曲的调子，让他生动地忆起尼斯的圣诞舞会，特别是那个矮胖子的法国人。这 就很有效地使他暂时停止了他那悲哀的谱曲工作。
然后他又试着写歌剧，因为万事开头时，似乎总是有可能的。可是，在这方面，没有预料到的困难又袭击了他。他想用乔作女主人公。他借助记忆，为他提供 爱情温柔的回忆及浪漫的想象。然而记忆背叛了他，好像被那姑娘乖张的性格缠住了，他只忆起乔的古怪、过失以及任性。记忆里只显现她最没有柔情的方面--头 上扎着扎染印花大头巾，拍打着垫子，用沙发枕把自己堵住，或者对他的热情泼冷水--一阵抑制不住的笑毁了他费力勾画出的忧愁形象。无论如何，乔放不进那歌 剧。他只好放弃她，说道：“上帝保佑那姑娘，她真折磨人！“他扯着自己的头发，这个动作很像一个心烦意乱的谱曲家。
他四下搜寻，要另找一个不这么难对付的姑娘，使之在歌曲中不朽。记忆欣然地为他产生了一个幻像。这个幻像具有许多脸孔，但总是有着金发。她裹在漂渺 的云雾中，在他脑海里轻盈地飘浮着。那玫瑰、孔雀、白马以及蓝丝带，图像混乱但却令人愉快。他没给这颇为自得的幻像命名，但却将她当成了女主人公，越来越 喜欢她起来。他完全可以这样，因为他赋予她世间所有的天赋及优雅，护卫着她不受损伤地通过各种考验，这些考验会消灭任何一个凡胎女子的。
多亏了这个鼓舞，他顺畅地过了一段时间。可是渐渐地这件工作失去了魅力，他忘掉了谱曲。他坐在那里，手握钢笔沉思着，或者在欢快的市区到处漫游，以 得到新的思想清醒头脑。那个冬天，他的脑子似乎一直处于某种不安定状态，他做得不多，想得却不少。他意识到他身不由己地产生了某种变化。“也许，是在酝酿 天才，我让它去酝酿，看看会有什么结果，“他说，同时始终暗自怀疑那不是什么天才，也许只是非常普通的东西。不管是什么，它酝酿得相当成功，因为，他越来 越不满足他散漫的生活，他开始渴望认真地、全身心地从事某件真正的工作。最后他选择了明智的结论：并不是所有喜爱音乐的人都是作曲家。皇家剧院上演着莫扎 特的气势恢宏的歌剧，听完歌剧回来，他看了看自己谱的曲，演奏了其中最好的一部分，他坐在那儿盯着门德尔松、贝多芬、巴赫的塑像看着，而塑像也宽厚地回看 着他。突然他一张接一张地扯碎了他所有的乐谱。当最后一张从他手里飘落时，他清醒地自言自语道--“她是对的！天赋不是天才，你不能使天赋产生天才。音乐 去掉了我的虚荣心，就像罗马去掉了她的虚荣心一样。我不会再当冒牌艺术家了。现在我该做些什么呢？“这个问题似乎难以回答，劳里开始希望，要是他必须为每 日的面包工作就好了。现在几乎出现了一个适当的机会"去见鬼"，就像他曾经用力说出的那样，因为他有许多钱，却无事可干，而撒旦如谚语所说喜欢为手中有钱 的闲散人提供工作。这个可怜的家伙从里到外都受着足够多的诱惑，但是他很好地经受住了。因为，尽管他喜欢自由，但他更看重好的信念与信心。他向爷爷做过保 证，他自己也希望能够诚实地看着那些爱他的妇人们的眼睛，说：“一切都好。“这些保持了他的平安与稳定。
很可能某个好挑剔的太太会评论：“我不相信。男孩就是男孩。年轻人肯定会干荒唐事。女人们别指望出现奇迹。“挑剔的太太，我敢说你是不相信，然而那 是真的。女人们创造出许多奇迹，我确信她们通过拒绝附和这种说法，甚至能提高男人们的素质。就让男孩为男孩吧，时间越长越好。让年轻人干荒唐事吧，假如他 们非干不可的话。但是，母亲们、姐妹们、朋友们可以帮他们，使荒唐事少一点，防止莠草破坏收成。她们相信，也这样表示，他们有可能忠实于美德，这些美德使 他们在良家妇女的眼里更具男子气。如果这些是妇人的幻想，就让我们尽情沉湎于其中吧。因为，没有它，生活便失去了一半的美和浪漫。可悲的预示给我们对那些 勇敢、心地温和的小伙子们的所有希望增添了苦味。小伙子们仍然爱母亲胜过爱自己，并且承认这一点不觉羞耻。
劳里以为忘掉他对乔的爱要占去他几年的精力，可是使他大为惊奇的是，他发现自己一天天轻松起来。开始他不愿相信，他生自己的气，他理解不了。可是， 我们的心奇妙而又矛盾，时间和自然的意志由不得我们。劳里的心不肯伤疼了，伤口坚决地愈合，其速度令他吃惊，他发觉自己不是在试图忘却，而是在试图记起。 他没有预料到事情会这样转变，也没有做好准备应付。他讨厌自己，对自己的轻浮感到惊奇。
他的心情充满了古怪的混合成份，又是失望，又是宽慰。他竟能从这样巨大的打击中恢复过来。他小心翼翼地拨弄着他失去的爱火的余烬，可是它们燃不成烈 焰，只有令人舒服的灼热，这温暖了他，给他好处，却不使他进入狂热状态。他不情愿地被迫承认，他那孩子气的热情已慢慢降低为较为平和的感情，非常柔弱，还 有点悲哀与不满，但最终肯定会消失，留下兄长般的感情，这种感情不会破损，会一直持续到底。
“嗯，他是个伟人。他得不到一个妹妹，便找了另一个，他感到了幸福。“劳里没说出这些话，但是他想到了这些。转眼他亲了亲那小旧指环，自言自语道： “不，我不会的。我还没忘记，我决不会。我要再试试。假如那样失败了，哎呀，那么--"他这句话没说完，便抓起纸笔写信给乔，告诉她只要她还有改变主意的 一线可能，他就无法安心做任何事。她能不能爱他？肯不肯爱他？能让他回家做一个幸福的人吗？他在等候答复的期间什么也没做。但是信却写得充满活力，因为他 处于一种燥热中。答复终于来了，在那一点上有效地使他安了心。乔决然不能也不肯爱他。她埋头于贝思的事情，决不愿再听到"爱情"一词。然后她求他去找别人 共享幸福，为他亲爱的乔妹在心里永远留个小角落。在附言中，她希望他不要告诉艾美，贝思的情况恶化了。艾美春天就要回家，没有必要使她在国外剩下的日子里 感到悲哀。请求上帝，但愿有足够的时间，但劳里必须常给艾美写信，不要让她感到孤单、想家或是焦急。
但是他那天并没有写信，因为当他翻找着最好的纸张时，看到了一些东西，使他改变了意图。桌子的一个抽屉里乱放着帐单、护照以及各种各样的商业文件。 乔的一些来信也在期间。另一个抽屉里放着艾美的三封来信，仔细地用她的蓝丝带束着，还有那已枯萎的小玫瑰，它们带着甜蜜的暗示，放在抽屉的深处。劳里的表 情半是后悔，半是开心，他收起乔所有的信件，把它们抚平、折叠起来，整整齐齐地放进桌子的一个小抽屉里。他站了一会儿，若有所思地转着手上的指环，然后慢 慢地将它卸了下来，和信放在一起，锁上了抽屉。
然而他不久便去发了信，也迅即得到了回复，因为艾美确实想家了，她以非常坦诚的信任态度承认了这一点。他们的信件来往频繁，内容丰富。整个早春季 节，定期飞鸿从未间断。劳里卖掉了塑像，烧掉了他的歌剧，回到了巴黎。他希望不久某个人便会到达。他极想去尼斯，但是得有人请他，他才会去。而艾美是不会 请他的，因为当时她自己正有些小小的经历，使她宁愿避开"我们的男孩"的好奇目光。
弗雷德·沃恩回来了，向她提出了那个问题。她曾经决定回答：“愿意，谢谢。“现在她却说：“不，谢谢。“说得客气，但是坚定。因为，那一时刻来临 时，她没了勇气，她发现了除了金钱和地位，还需要某种东西来满足一种新的渴求，这种渴求使她内心充满了温柔的希望与惶恐。“弗雷德是个好小伙子，但我想不 是你会喜欢的那种。“这句话以及劳里说这句话时的表情，执拗地不断出现在她的脑海；还有她自己不是用言语，而是用神色表达的意思：“我要为钱而结婚。“现 在回忆起这些使她烦心。她但愿能收回那句话，那听起来那么没有女人气。她不想让劳里把她看成个无情的世俗女人。现在她不在乎当社交皇后了，她更想做一个可 爱的妇人。尽管她对劳里说了那些可怕的话，他不记恨她，反而那么宽厚地接受了，并且比以前更亲切，她感到异常高兴。他的来信让她感到十分熨贴，因为家信很 不定期了，即使家信来了，也没有他的信一半令人满意。回复这些信件不仅是件乐事，也是个责任，因为乔坚持做铁石心肠的人，这可怜的人儿绝望了，需要抚慰。 乔本来应该作出努力，试着爱他的。那并不难做到，因为，有这样一个可爱的男孩喜欢自己，很多人都会感到自豪喜悦的。然而，乔办事从来不像别的女孩，因此， 没别的法子，只有对他非常客气，待他如兄长。
她为他制作迷人的小礼物，每星期给他寄两封信，信里满是愉快的闲谈、妹妹般的信任，以及她画的那些很优美的风景画习作。几乎没有哪个兄长得到过这样 的礼遇：妹妹们将他们的来信放在口袋里，反复阅读品味。信短了便哭，信长了便吻着它，将它仔细珍藏。这不是要暗示艾美做了些可爱的傻事，可是，那个春天她 的脸色肯定变得有点苍白了，也爱沉思了。她大大丧失了社交的兴趣。她常常独自出门作画，回来时却从来拿不出多少幅画给人看。我敢说，她是在研究大自然。她 在玫瑰谷的平台上一坐便是几小时。她袖着手坐在那儿，要不便心不在焉地画着脑中出现的任何图像--雕刻在坟墓上的一个健壮的骑士，睡在草地上的一个年轻 人，帽子盖着眼睛；或者一个穿着华丽的鬈发姑娘，偎依在一个高个子先生的臂弯里，在舞厅绕场行进。按照最新的艺术时尚，两个人的脸画得模糊不清，这样安 全，但一点也不令人感到满足。
婶婶以为艾美后悔她对弗雷德作出的回答，并且她没法否认，又解释不清。艾美任由婶婶想去。她谨慎地让劳里知道弗雷德去了埃及。就这么多，但是劳里懂 了。他好像是放心了，他带着庄严的神气自言自语--"我确信她会改变主意的。可怜的家伙！这一切我都经历过了。我同情他。“说完这些，他长吁一口气，然 后，仿佛对过去的事已尽到了义务，他把脚跷到了沙发上，非常舒适地欣赏起艾美的来信。
这是个令人心旷神怡的古老花园。它坐落在美丽的湖畔，高高的栗子树发着沙沙声，到处爬满了常春藤，塔楼的黑影投射在洒满阳光的湖面上。在那宽大低矮 的城墙一角有个座位，艾美常来这里读书，做活，或者看着身边的美景安慰自己。那天她就坐在那里。她手抚着头，心中弥满乡思，眼里尽是哀愁。她想着贝思，奇 怪劳里为什么不来。她没有听见他穿过那边庭院时发出的声音，也没有看到他在拱道里驻步。
拱道穿过地下小路通往花园。他站了一会儿，以新的眼光看着她，看到了以前无法看到的东西--艾美性格里温柔的一面。她身上的一切都无声地暗示出爱与 痛苦--膝盖上字迹弄污了的信件，束着头发的黑色丝带，脸上妇人般的痛苦与坚忍的表情；在劳里看来，甚至她脖子上的那个乌木制的小小十字架也十分使人感 伤。那个十字架是他给她的，她作为唯一的装饰佩戴在身上。假如他对她会怎样接待他心存疑虑的话，她一抬头看到他，他便放心了。因为，她丢下所有的东西，跑 到他面前，用一种不容置疑的爱与渴盼的语调惊叫道--“哦，劳里，劳里，我就知道你会到我这儿来的！“我想，当时一切都说出来了，一切都安定了。他们一块 儿站在那里，有一会儿不说话了。那个深色脑袋护卫似地弯向那浅色脑袋。艾美感到没有谁能像劳里那样好地安慰她，支撑她。劳里认定艾美是世上唯一能代替乔使 他幸福的女人。他没有这样告诉她，她并不失望，因为，两个人都感觉到了这个事实。他们满意了，乐于将其他的事交于沉默。
“你不必说什么，这样就让我感到了安慰，“她轻轻地说，“贝思好了，她幸福了。我不应该希望她回来。可是，虽然我盼望见到家人，却害怕回家。现在我 们不谈这件事吧，那会使我哭泣，我想在你逗留期间享受和你在一起的乐趣。你不需要马上回去，是吗？““你要我的话我就不走，亲爱的。““我要，非常需要。 婶婶和弗洛非常亲切，而你就像我们的家庭成员，和你在一起共度时光我就不再寂寞。“艾美发自内心的话和神情都全然像一个想家的孩子，劳里马上忘掉了羞怯， 给了她正想要的东西--她习惯受到的爱抚以及她需要的那种亲近的谈话。
“可怜的小人儿，看上去你好像悲伤得快要生病了！我来照顾你，所以别再哭了。来，和我一起走走，坐在这里不动，风太凉了，“他用艾美喜欢的那种半是 哄劝半是命令的语调说。他为她系上帽带，让她挽其他的胳膊，他们开始在长满新叶的栗树下沿着阳光灿烂的小路散起步来。他感到脚步更加轻松，艾美则感到满心 欢喜。她有个强健的肩膀，给她依靠，有个亲切的面孔向她微笑，有个友好的声音只和她愉快地谈话。
这个古雅的花园曾经荫护过许多恋人。它似乎是特意为恋人们建造的。花园里阳光和煦，十分幽静，只有塔楼俯视着他们，宽阔的湖面带走了他们绵绵情话的 回声，湖水在花园下面潺潺流过。有那么一个小时的阳光，这对新的情侣漫步交谈，有时靠在城墙上歇息。他们在心灵感应中陶醉，这种感应弥漫于时间与空间。就 在这时，毫无浪漫情调的晚餐铃声响了，告诫他们离开。艾美感到仿佛将孤独与痛苦的重负留在了城堡的花园里。
卡罗尔太太一看到姑娘变化了的神情，便受到了一个新的念头的启发。她内心惊叹道：“现在我明白了一切--这孩子一直盼望着小劳伦斯。我的天哪，我怎 么就没想到！“这个好太太考虑事情周到，值得赞扬。她什么也没说，也没露出明白此事的迹象，只是热诚地敦促劳里留下来，请求艾美乐意与他为伴，这样比太多 的孤独对她更有好处。艾美是温顺的典范。婶婶专注于照顾弗洛，于是，便由她招待她的朋友，她做得比往日更为体贴入微。
这令人心旷神怡的空气对他们两个都大为有益。大运动量使他们的身心都起了明显的变化。身处绵延不断的群山中的城堡之上，他们似乎有了更清晰的人生观 与责任感。清新的风儿吹走了心灰意懒的疑虑、虚妄的幻想和忧郁的迷惑；温暖的春日阳光带来了各种抱负、温柔的希望、幸福的思想；湖水似乎冲走了往日的烦 恼，亘古的大山似乎仁慈地俯视着他们，对他们说：“小孩们，互爱吧！“尽管有贝思离世这一新的痛苦，他们过得还是十分快乐。
太快乐了，劳里竟不忍用一个字眼打搅它。他惊奇自己这么快就治愈了第一次的爱情创伤，他曾经坚定地相信：那会是他最后一次也是他唯一的爱情。不久， 他便从那惊奇中恢复过来。虽然表面上对乔不忠，可他想，乔的妹妹几乎就是乔自己。他确信，除了艾美，他不可能这么快、这么深地爱上任何别的女人。他以此安 慰自己。他的第一次求爱是暴风雨式的，他带着交织着怜悯与遗憾的复杂感情回顾它，仿佛是在追溯久远的往事。他不为它感到羞愧，而是把它作为人生中一次又苦 又甜的经历珍藏起来。痛苦结束了，他为之心存感激，他决心要让他的第二次求爱尽可能平静、简单：没必要设置场景，更没必要告诉艾美他爱她。不用言语，她已 知道，而且很早以前已给了他答复。一切发生得那么自然，没有人能抱怨。他知道每个人都会喜欢，甚至乔也会的。然而，我们第一次的小小热情被压制了，我们便 倾向于谨慎行事，慢慢作出第二次尝试。所以劳里任由日子流逝，享受着每一个小时的快乐时光。他静候命运安排他说出那一字眼，那个字将会结束他新的恋爱开初 最甜蜜的部分。
他原意想象着结局发生在月光下的城堡花园，以最优雅庄重的形式进行。可是结果正好相反。中午在湖上几句直率的谈话，事情便定了下来。整个早上他们都 在湖面泛舟，从背阳的圣然戈尔夫城划到向阳的蒙特勒城，湖的一边是萨瓦山，另一边是伯纳德山峰和南峭峰，美丽的沃韦市掩映在深谷中。山那边是洛桑市，头顶 是无云的蓝天，下面流着湛蓝的湖水，富有画趣的小舟点缀湖中，像是一只只白翼海鸥。
小船划过希永时，他们一直谈论着玻尼瓦尔德。后来他们抬头看到了克拉朗，他们又谈起了卢梭，在这里他写下了《埃洛伊兹》。他们两人都没读过那本书， 但是知道那是个爱情故事。两个人暗自怀疑那个故事有没有他们自己的一半有趣。在他俩谈话的小小间隙里，艾美用手轻抚着湖水。当她抬起头时，看到劳里靠在桨 上，眼神使她赶忙说话，她只是觉得要说点什么--“你一定累了，歇会儿吧。我来划，这对我有好处。你来后我一直懒散，享乐。““我不累，要是你愿意，你可 以划一支桨。这里地方够大的，不过我得几乎坐在中间，不然船就不能平衡，“劳里答道。
Amy's lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, he didnot own it till long afterward. Men seldom do, for when womenare the advisers, the lords of creation don't take the advicetill they have persuaded themselves that it is just what theyintended to do. Then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds,they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If itfails, they generously give her the whole. Laurie went backto his grandfather, and was so dutifully devoted for severalweeks that the old gentleman declared the climate of Nice hadimproved him wonderfully, and he had better try it again.There was nothing the young gentleman would have liked better,but elephants could not have dragged him back after the scoldinghe had received. Pride forbid, and whenever the longinggrew very strong, he fortified his resolution by repeatingthe words that had made the deepest impression, "I despise you.""Go and do something splendid that will make her love you."
Laurie turned the matter over in his mind so often that he soonbrought himself to confess that he had been selfish and lazy,but then when a man has a great sorrow, he should be indulgedin all sorts of vagaries till he has lived it down. He feltthat his blighted affections were quite dead now, and thoughhe should never cease to be a faithful mourner, there wasno occasion to wear his weeds ostentatiously. Jo wouldn'tlove him, but he might make her respect and admire him by doingsomething which should prove that a girl's no had not spoiledhis life. He had always meant to do something, and Amy'sadvice was quite unnecessary. He had only been waiting tillthe aforesaid blighted affections were decently interred.That being done, he felt that he was ready to `hide hisstricken heart, and still toil on'.
As Goethe, when he had a joy or a grief, put it into a song,so Laurie resolved to embalm his love sorrow in music, and tocompose a Requiem which should harrow up Jo's soul and melt theheart of every hearer. Therefore the next time the old gentlemanfound him getting restless and moody and ordered him off,he went to Vienna, where he had musical friends, and fell towork with the firm determination to distinguish himself. Butwhether the sorrow was too vast to be embodied in music, ormusic too ethereal to uplift a mortal woe, he soon discoveredthat the Requiem was beyond him just at present. It was evidentthat his mind was not in working order yet, and his ideasneeded clarifying, for often in the middle of a plaintive strain,he would find himself humming a dancing tune that vividly recalledthe Christmas ball at Nice, especially the stout Frenchman,and put an effectual stop to tragic composition for the time being.
Then he tried an opera, for nothing seemed impossible inthe beginning, but here again unforeseen difficulties besethim. He wanted Jo for his heroine, and called upon his memoryto supply him with tender recollections and romantic visionsof his love. But memory turned traitor, and as if possessedby the perverse spirit of the girl, would only recall Jo'soddities, faults, and freaks, would only show her in the mostunsentimental aspects--beating mats with her head tied up ina bandana, barricading herself with the sofa pillow, or throwingcold water over his passion a la Gummidge--and an irresistablelaugh spoiled the pensive picture he was endeavoring topaint. Jo wouldn't be put into the opera at any price, and hehad to give her up with a "Bless that girl, what a torment she is!"and a clutch at his hair, as became a distracted composer.
When he looked about him for another and a less intractabledamsel to immortalize in melody, memory produced one with themost obliging readiness. This phantom wore many faces, but italways had golden hair, was enveloped in a diaphanous cloud, andfloated airily before his mind's eye in a pleasing chaos of roses,peacocks, white ponies, and blue ribbons. He did not give thecomplacent wraith any name, but he took her for his heroine andgrew quite fond of her, as well he might, for he gifted her withevery gift and grace under the sun, and escorted her, unscathed,through trials which would have annihilated any mortal woman.
Thanks to this inspiration, he got on swimmingly for a time,but gradually the work lost its charm, and he forgot to compose,while he sat musing, pen in hand, or roamed about the gay cityto get some new ideas and refresh his mind, which seemed to bein a somewhat unsettled state that winter. He did not do much,but he thought a great deal and was conscious of a change ofsome sort going on in spite of himself. "It's genius simmering,perhaps. I'll let it simmer, and see what comes of it," he said,with a secret suspicion all the while that it wasn't genius, butsomething far more common. Whatever it was, it simmered tosome purpose, for he grew more and more discontented with hisdesultory life, began to long for some real and earnest workto go at, soul and body, and finally came to the wise conclusionthat everyone who loved music was not a composer. Returningfrom one of Mozart's grand operas, splendidly performed atthe Royal Theatre, he looked over his own, played a few of thebest parts, sat staring at the busts of Mendelssohn, Beethoven,and bach, who stared benignly back again. Then suddenly hetore up his music sheets, one by one, and as the last flutteredout of his hand, he said soberly to himself...
"She is right! Talent isn't genius, and you can't make itso. That music has taken the vanity out of my as Rome took itout of her, and I won't be a humbug any longer. Now what shallI do?"
That seemed a hard question to answer, and Laurie began towish he had to work for his daily bread. Now if ever, occurredan eligible opportunity for `going to the devil', as he onceforcibly expressed it, for he had plenty of money and nothingto do, and Satan is proverbially fond of providing employmentfor full and idle hands. The poor fellow had temptationsenough from without and from within, but he withstood thempretty well, for much as he valued liberty, he valued goodfaith and confidence more, so his promise to his grandfather,and his desire to be able to look honestly into the eyes ofthe women who loved him, and say "All's well," kept him safeand steady.
Very likely some Mrs. Grundy will observe, "I don't believe it,boys will be boys, young men must sow their wild oats,and women must not expect miracles." I dare say you don't,Mrs. Grundy, but it's true nevertheless. Women worka good many miracles, and I have a persuasion that they mayperform even that of raising the standard of manhood byrefusing to echo such sayings. Let the boys be boys, thelonger the better, and let the young men sow their wild oatsif they must. But mothers, sisters, and friends may help tomake the crop a small one, and keep many tares from spoilingthe harvest, by believing, and showing that they believe, inthe possibility of loyalty to the virtues which make men manliestin good women's eyes. If it is a feminine delusion, leave usto enjoy it while we may, for without it half the beauty andthe romance of life is lost, and sorrowful forebodings wouldembitter all our hopes of the brave, tenderhearted little lads,who still love their mothers better than themselves and arenot ashamed to own it.
Laurie thought that the task of forgetting his love for Jowould absorb all his powers for years, but to his great surprisehe discovered it grew easier every day. He refused to believeit at first, got angry with himself, and couldn't understand it,but these hearts of ours are curious and contrary things, andtime and nature work their will in spite of us. Laurie's heartwouldn't ache. The wound persisted in healing with a rapiditythat astonished him, and instead of trying to forget, he foundhimself trying to remember. He had not foreseen this turn ofaffairs, and was not prepared for it. He was disgusted withhimself, surprised at his own fickleness, and full of aqueer mixture of disappointment and relief that he couldrecover from such a tremendous blow so soon. He carefullystirred up the embers of his lost love, but they refused toburst into a blaze. There was only a comfortable glow thatwarmed and did him good without putting him into a fever,and he was reluctantly obliged to confess that the boyishpassion was slowly subbsiding into a more tranquil sentiment,very tender, a little sad and resentful still, but that wassure to pass away in time, leaving a brotherly affectionwhich would last unbroken to the end.
As the word `brotherly' passed through his mind in oneof his reveries, he smiled, and glanced up at the picture ofMozart that was before him...
"Well, he was a great man, and when he couldn't haveone sister he took the other, and was happy."
Laurie did not utter the words, but he thought them, andthe next instant kissed the little old ring, saying to himself,"No, I won't! I haven't forgotten, I never can. I'll try again,and if that fails, why then...
Leaving his sentence unfinished, he seized pen and paperand wrote to Jo, telling her that he could not settle to anythingwhile there was the least hope of her changing her mind.Couldn't she, wouldn't she, and let him come home and be happy?While waiting for an answer he did nothing, but he did itenergetically, for he was in a fever of impatience. It cameat last, and settled his mind effectually on one point, for Jodecidedly couldn't and wouldn't. She was wrapped up in Beth,and never wished to hear the word love again. Then she beggedhim to be happy with somebody else, but always keep a littlecorner of his ghart for his loving sister Jo. In a postscriptshe desired him not to tell Amy that Beth was worse, she wascoming home in the spring and there was no need of saddeningthe remainder of her stay. That would be time enough, pleaseGod, but Laurie must write to her often, and not let her feellonely, homesick or anxious.
"So I will, at once. Poor little girl, it will be a sadgoing home for her, I'm afraid." And Laurie opened his desk,as if writing to Amy had been the proper conclusion of thesentence left unfinished some weeks before.
But he did not write the letter that day, for as he rummagedout his best paper, he came across something whichchanged his purpose. Tumbling about in one part of the deskamong bills, passports, and business documents of various kindswere several of Jo's letters, and in another compartment werethree notes from Amy, carefully tied up with one of her blueribbons and sweetly suggestive of the little dead roses putaway inside. with a half-repentant, half-amused expression,Laurie gathered up all Jo's letters, smoothed, folded, and putthem neatly into a small drawer of the desk, stood a minuteturning the ring thoughtfully on his finger, then slowly drewit off, laid it with the letters, locked the drawer, and wentout to hear High Mass at Saint Stefan's, feeling as if therehad been a funeral, and though not overwhelmed with affliction,this seemed a more proper way to spend the rest of the day thanin writing letters to charming young ladies.
The letter went very soon, however, and was promptly answered,for Amy was homesick, and confessed it in the mostdelightfully confiding manner. The correspondence flourishedfamously, and letters flew to and fro with unfailing regularityall through the early spring. Laurie sold his busts, madeallumettes of his opera, and went back to Paris, hoping somebodywould arrive before long. He wanted desperately to goto Nice, but would not till he was asked, and Amy would notask him, for just then she was having little experiences ofher own, which made her rather wish to avoid the quizzicaleyes of `out boy'.
Fred Vaughn had returned, and put the question to whichshe had once decided to answer, "Yes, thank you," but now shesaid, "No, thank you," kindly but steadily, for when the timecame, her courage failed her, and she found that somethingmore than money and position was needed to satisfy the newlonging that filled her heart so full of tender hopes andfears. The words, "Fred is a good fellow, but not at allthe man I fancied you would ever like," and Laurie's facewhen he uttered them, kept returning to her as pertinaciouslyas her own did when she said in look, if not in words, "Ishall marry for money." It troubled her to remember thatnow, she wished she could take it back, it sounded so unwomanly.She didn't want Laurie to think her a heartless, worldlycreature. She didn't care to be a queen of society nowhalf so much as she did to be a lovable woman. She wasso glad he didn't hate her for the dreadful things she said,but took them so beautifully and was kinder than ever. Hisletters were such a comfort, for the home letters were veryirregular and not half so satisfactory as his when they didcome. It was not only a pleasure, but a duty to answer them,for the poor fellow was forlorn, and needed petting, since Jopersisted in being stonyhearted. She ought to have made aneffort and tried to love him. It couldn't be very hard,many people would be proud and glad to have such a dear boycare for them. But Jo never would act like other girls, sothere was nothing to do but be very kind and treat him likea brother.
If all brothers were treated as well as Laurie was atthis period, they would be a much happier race of beings thanthey are. Amy never lectured now. She asked his opinion onall subjects, she was interested in everything he did, madecharming little presents for him, and sent him two lettersa week, full of lively gossip, sisterly confidences, andcaptivating sketches of the lovely scenes about her. As fewbrothers are complimented by having their letters carriedabout in their sister's pockets, read and reread diligently,cried over when short, kissed when long, and treasured carefully,we will not hint that Amy did any of these fond andfoolish things. But she certainly did grow a little paleand pensive that spring, lost much of her relish for society,and went out sketching alone a good deal. She never had muchto show when she came home, but was studying nature, I daresay, while she sat for hours, with her hands folded, on theterrace at Valrosa, or absently sketched any fancy thatoccurred to her, a stalwart knight carved on a tomb, a youngman asleep in the grass, with his hat over his eyes, or a curlyhaired girl in gorgeous array, promenading down a ballroom onthe arm of a tall gentleman, both faces being left a bluraccording to the last fashion in art, which was safe but notaltogether satisfactory.
Her aunt thought that she regretted her answer to Fred,and finding denials useless and explanations impossible, Amyleft her to think what she liked, taking care that Laurieshould know that Fred had gone to Egypt. That was all, buthe understood it, and looked relieved, as he said to himself,with a venerable air . ..
"I was sure she would think better of it. Poor old fellow!I've been through it all, and I can sympathize."
With that he heaved a great sigh, and then, as if he haddischarged his duty to the past, put his feet up on the sofaand enjoyed Amy's letter luxuriously.
While these changes were going on abroad, trouble hadcome at home. But the letter telling that Beth was failingnever reached Amy, and when the next found her at Vevay, forthe heat had driven them from Nice in May, and they had travelledslowly to Switzerland, by way of Genoa and the Italianlakes. She bore it very well, and quietly submitted to thefamily decree that she should not shorten her visit, forsince it was too late to say goodbye to Beth, she had betterstay, and let absence soften her sorrow. But her heart wasvery heavy, she longed to be at home, and every day lookedwistfully across the lake, waiting for Laurie to come andcomfort her.
He did come very soon, for the same mail brought lettersto them both, but he was in Germany, and it took some days toreach him. The moment he read it, he packed his knapsack,bade adieu to his fellow pedestrians, and was off to keep hispromise, with a heart full of joy and sorrow, hope and suspense.
He knew Vevay well, and as soon as the boat touched thelittle quay, he hurried along the shore to La Tour, where theCarrols were living en pension. The garcon was in despairthat the whole family had gone to take a promenade on thelake, but no, the blonde mademoiselle might be in the chateaugarden. If monsier would give himself the pain of sittingdown, a flash of time should present her. But monsieur couldnot wait even a `flash of time', and in the middle of thespeech departed to find mademoiselle himself.
A pleasant old garden on the borders of the lovely lake,with chestnuts rustling overhead, ivy climbing everywhere, andthe black shadow of the tower falling far across the sunnywater. At one corner of the wide, low wall was a seat, and hereAmy often came to read or work, or console herself with thebeauty all about her. She was sitting here that day, leaningher head on her hand, with a homesick heart and heavy eyes,thinking of Beth and wondering why Laurie did not come. Shedid not hear him cross the courtyard beyond, nor see him pausein the archway that led from the subterranean path into thegarden. He stood a minute looking at her with new eyes, seeingwhat no one had ever seen before, the tender side of Amy's character.Everything about her mutely suggested love and sorrow,the blotted letters in her lap, the black ribbon that tied upher hair, the womanly pain and patience in her face, even thelittle ebony cross at her throat seemed pathetic to Laurie,for he had given it to her, and she wore it as her only ornament.If he had any doubts about the reception she would givehim, they were set at rest the minute she looked up and sawhim, for dropping everything, she ran to him, exclaiming in atone of unmistakable love and longing...
"Oh, Laurie, Laurie, I knew you'd come to me!"
I think everything was said and settled then, for as theystood together quite silent for a moment, with the dark headbent down protectingly over the light one, Amy felt that noone could comfort and sustain her so well as Laurie, andLaurie decided that Amy was the only woman in the world whocould fill Jo's place and make him happy. He did not tell herso, but she was not disappointed, for both felt the truth,were satisfied, and gladly left the rest to silence.
In a minute Amy went back to her place, and while shedried her tears, Laurie gathered up the scattered papers,finding in the sight of sundry well-worn letters and suggestivesketches good omens for the future. As he sat down beside her,amy felt shy again, and turned rosy red at the recollection ofher impulsive greeting.
"I couldn't help it, I felt so lonely and sad, and was sovery glad to see you. It was such a surprise to look up and findyou, just as I was beginning to fear you wouldn't come," she said,trying in vain to speak quite naturally.
"I came the minute I heard. I wish I could say somethingto comfort you for the loss of dear little Beth, but I can onlyfeel, and..." He could not get any further, for her tooturned bashful all of a sudden, and did not quite know what tosay. He longed to lay Amy's head down on his shoulder, and tellher to have a good cry, but he did not dare, so took her handinstead, and gave it a sympathetic squeeze that was better thanwords.
"You needn't say anything, this comforts me," she saidsoftly. "Beth is well and happy, and I mustn't wish her back,but I dread the going home, much as I long to see them all.We won't talk about it now, for it makes me cry, and I wantto enjoy you while you stay. You needn't go right back, needyou?"
"Not if you want me, dear."
"I do, so much. Aunt and Flo are very kind, but youseem like one of the family, and it would be so comfortable tohave you for a little while."
Amy spoke and looked so like a homesick child whose heartwas full that Laurie forgot his bashfulness all at once, andgave her just what she wanted--the petting she was used to andthe cheerful conversation she needed.
"Poor little soul, you look as if you'd grieved yourselfhalf sick! I'm going to take care of you, so don't cry anymore, but come and walk about with me, the wind is too chillyfor you to sit still," he said, in the half-caressing,half-commanding way that Amy liked, as he tied on her hat,drew her arm through his, and began to pace up and down thesunny walk under the new-leaved chestnuts. He felt more atease upon his legs, and Amy found it pleasant to have a strongarm to lean upon, a familiar face to smile at her, and a kindvoice to talk delightfully for her alone.
The quaint old garden had sheltered many pairs of lovers,and seemed expressly made for them, so sunny and secluded wasit, with nothing but the tower to overlook them, and the widelake to carry away the echo of their words, as it rippled bybelow. For an hour this new pair walked and talked, or restedon the wall, enjoying the sweet influences which gave such acharm to time and place, and when an unromantic dinner bellwarned them away, Amy felt as if she left her burden oflonliness and sorrow behind her in the chateau garden.
The moment Mrs. Carrol saw the girl's altered face, shewas illuminated with a new idea, and exclaimed to herself,"Now I understand it all--the child has been pining for youngLaurence. Bless my heart, I never thought of such a thing!"
With praiseworthy discretion, the good lady said nothing,and betrayed no sign of enlightenment, but cordially urgedLaurie to stay and begged Amy to enjoy his society, for itwould do her more good than so much solitude. Amy was amodel of docility, and as her aunt was a good deal occupiedwith Flo, she was left to entertain her friend, and did itwith more than her usual success.
At Nice, Laurie had lounged and Amy had scolded. AtVevay, Laurie was never idle, but always walking, riding,boating, or studying in the most energetic manner, whileAmy admired everything he did and followed his example asfar and as fast as she could. He said the change was owingto the climate, and she did not contradict him, being gladof a like excuse for her own recovered health and spirits.
The invigorating air did them both good, and much exerciseworked wholesome changes in minds as well as bodies.They seemed to get clearer views of life and duty up thereamong the everlasting hills. The fresh winds blew awaydesponding doubts, delusive fancies, and moody mists. Thewarm spring sunshine brought out all sorts of aspiring ideas,tender hopes, and happy thoughts. The lake seemed to washaway the troubles of the past, and the grand old mountainsto look benignly down upon them saying, "Little children,love one another."
In spite of the new sorrow, it was a very happy time, sohappy that Laurie could not bear to disturb it by a word. Ittook him a little while to recover from his surprise at thecure of his first, and as he had firmly believed, his lastand only love. He consoled himself for the seeming disloyaltyby the thought that Jo's sister was almost the same as Jo'sself, and the conviction that it would have been impossibleto love any other woman but Amy so soon and so well. His firstwooing had been of the tempestuous order, and he looked backupon ;it as if through a long vista of years with a feeling ofcompassion blended with regret. He was not ashamed of it,but put it away as one of the bitter-sweet experiences of hislife, for which he could be grateful when the pain was over.His second wooing, he resolved, should be as calm and simpleas possible. There was no need of having a scene, hardlyany need of telling Amy that he loved her, she knew it withoutwords and had given him his answer long ago. It all cameabout so naturally that no one could complain, and he knew thateverybody would be pleased, even Jo. But when our first littlepassion has been crushed, we are apt to be wary and slow in makinga second trial, so Laurie let the days pass, enjoying every hour,and leaving to chance the utterance of the word that wouldput an end to the first and sweetest part of his new romance.
He had rather imagined that the denoument would take placein the chateau garden by moonlight, and in the most graceful anddecorus manner, but it turned out exactly the reverse, for thematter was settled on the lake at noonday in a few blunt words.They had been floating about all the morning, from gloomySt. Gingolf to sunny Montreux, with the Alps of Savoy on one side,Mont St. Bernard and the Dent du Midi on the other, pretty Vevay inthe valley, and Lausanne upon the hill beyond, a cloudless bluesky overhead, and the bluer lake below, dotted with the picturesqueboats that look like white-winged gulls.
They had been talking of Bonnivard, as they glided pastChillon, and of Rousseau, as they looked up at Clarens, where hewrote his Heloise. Neither had read it, but they knew it was alove story, and each privately wondered if it was half as interestingas their own. Amy had been dabbling her hand in the waterduring the little pause that fell between them, and when she lookedup, Laurie was leaning on his oars with an expression in his eyesthat made her say hastily, merely for the sake of saying something . .
"You must be tired. Rest a little, and let me row. It will do me good,for since you came I have been altogether lazy and luxurious."
"I'm not tired, but you may take an oar, if you like. There'sroom enough, though I have to sit nearly in the middle, else theboat won't trim," returned Laurie, as if he rather liked the arrangment.
Feeling that she had not mended matters much, Amy took theoffered third of a seat, shook her hair over her face, and acceptedan oar. She rowed as well as she did many other things, and thoughshe used both hands, and Laurie but one, the oars kept time, andthe boat went smoothly through the water.
"How well we pull together, don't we?" said Amy, who objectedto silence just then.
"So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat.Will you, Amy?" very tenderly.
"Yes, Laurie," very low.
Then they both stopped rowing, and unconsciously added apretty little tableau of human love and happiness to the dissolvingviews reflected in the lake.