乔在阁楼上十分忙碌， 因为十月已到，天气开始寒冷，下午也变短了。温煦的阳光从高高的窗子射进来。两三个小时过去了，乔仍然坐在旧沙发上，把稿纸摊在面前的一个大箱子上头，奋 笔疾书，她的爱鼠扒扒则在梁上大模大样地蹓跶，乔全神贯注地挥笔疾书，一直写满最后一页，然后龙飞凤舞地签上自己的名字，把笔一丢，大声说--“好啦，我 已使足了劲儿！如果这还不行，我只得等到下次啦。“她向后靠在沙发上，把稿子仔细阅读一遍，在这儿那儿划上破折号，又添上许多看上去像小气球一样的感叹 号，然后用一根漂亮的红绸带把稿纸扎起来，又严肃地望着它出了一会儿神，可见这篇作品凝聚了她多少心血。乔这上头的书桌是一个挂在墙上的旧锡制碗柜，里头 放着她的手稿和几本书，十分安全，只要把柜门一关，同样富有文学才情、见书就啃的扒扒便只能望柜兴叹了。乔从这个锡柜里拿出另一份手镐，把两份稿子放进衣 袋，悄悄下了楼梯，任由她的朋友把她的钢笔墨水大啃大喝。
如果这时有人看到她，一定会觉得她的行动希奇古怪。她一下车便快步如飞，一直奔到位于一条繁忙大街的一个门牌前面，这才缓下脚步；颇费一番功夫后， 她找到了要找的地方，于是踏进门口，抬头望望肮肮脏脏的楼梯，又站着一动不动地呆了一会，突然一头扎进大街，往回疾走。这样来而复去，几次三番，把对面楼 上，凭窗而望的一位黑眼睛年轻人逗得开怀大乐。第三次折回来时，乔使劲摇摇脑袋，把帽沿拉下遮住眼睛，走上楼梯，脸上挂着一副准备把牙统统拔光的表情。
楼门口挂着几面牌子，其中一面是牙医招牌，一对假颌慢慢地开而又合，以吸引人注意里头一副洁白的牙齿。方才那位年轻人盯着假颌看了一会，拿起自己的 帽子，穿上大衣，走下楼来站在对面门口，打了个哆嗦，微笑说：“她素爱独来独往，但万一她痛得难受，就要有人送她回家了。“十分钟后乔涨红着脸跑下楼梯， 一望而知刚刚经受了一场磨难。当她看到年轻人时，神情一点也不显得高兴，只点个头便走了过去；但他跟上去，同情地问：“刚才是不是很难受？““有点。“ “这么快就好了？““是，谢天谢地。““为什么一个人来？““不想别人知道。““真是个空前绝后的怪人。你弄出了几个？“乔望着自己的朋友，似乎莫明其 妙，接着便笑得乐不可支。
“演不演《哈姆雷特》我都会教你，这种娱乐简直妙不可言，令人精神大振。不过，你刚才说'高兴'说得那么一本正经，我想一定另有原因，对吗，嗯？“ “对，我真高兴你没有上桌球室，因为我决不希望你去那种地方。你平时去吗？““不常去。““我但愿你别去。““这并无害处，乔，我在家也玩桌球，但如果没 有好球手，就不好玩了，因为我喜欢桌球，有时便和内德·莫法特或起他伙伴来比试比试。““噢，是吗？我真为你感到惋惜，因为你慢慢就会玩上瘾，就会糟蹋时 间和金钱，变得跟那些可恶的小子一样。我一直希望你会自尊自爱，不令朋友失望，“乔摇着脑袋说。
“当然，她看不惯赶时髦的年青人，她宁愿把我们全都关进硬纸匣里，也不让我们跟他们拉扯上。““哦，她倒不必拿出她的硬纸匣来，我不是赶时髦的那种 人，也不想做那种人，但我有时真喜欢没有害处的玩乐，你不喜欢吗？““喜欢，没有人反对这样的娱乐，你爱玩便玩吧，只是别玩野了心，好吗？不然，我们的好 日子就完了。““我会做个不折不扣的圣人。““我可受不了圣人，就做个其实、正派的好小伙吧，我们便永不离弃你。如果你像金斯先生的儿子那样，我可真不知 道该怎么办；他有很多饯，但却不知怎么用，反而酗酒聚赌，离家出逃，还盗用他父亲的名字，可谓劣迹斑斑。““你以为我也会做出这种事？过奖了！““不，不 是--噢，哎呀，不是的！--但我听人说金钱是个蛊惑人心的魔鬼，有时我真希望你没有钱财，那我就不必担心了。““你担心我吗，乔？““你有时显得情绪低 落，内心不满，这时我便有点儿担心；因为你个性极强，如果一旦走上歪路，我恐怕很难阻挡你。“劳里一言不发，默默而行。乔望着他，暗恨自己快嘴快舌没有遮 拦，因为虽然他的嘴唇依旧挂着微笑，似乎在嘲笑她的忠告，一双眼睛却分明含着怒意。
你应该听听，我憋了好久了，一直想讲出来。来吧，你先开始。““你在家一个字也不能提，好吗？““只字不提。““你不会私下取笑我？““我从来不取 笑人。“不，你取笑的，你什么都可以从人家嘴里套出来。我不知你是怎么做的，但你天生是个哄人的专家。““谢谢了，请说吧。““嗯，我把两篇故事交给了一 位报社编辑，他下个星期就答复我，“乔向她的密友耳语道。
“小声！我敢说这不会有什么结果，但我总要试一试才会甘心。我不想让其他人失望，所以只字未提。““你一定得偿所愿。嘿，乔，现在每天出笼的文章有 半数是垃圾，跟它们一比，你的故事堪称是莎士比亚的大作。看到你的大作印在报上该多有意思！我们怎能不为我们的女作家而感到自豪？“乔眼睛闪闪发亮。劳里 相信她，她心里感到甜丝丝的，而朋友的赞扬总是比一打报上吹捧自己的文章还要动听。
蛊“已经足够了，我说出来后你自然会明白。““那么，请说吧。“劳里俯下身，在乔耳边悄悄说了几个字，乔神色随即变得十分古怪。她诧异万分地呆站 着，忿忿地瞪了他一会儿，又继续往前走，厉声问道：“你怎么知道的？““看到的。“在哪？““口袋。““一直都是？““对，是不是很浪漫？““不，叫人恶 心。““你不喜欢吗？““当然不喜欢。这种事荒唐透顶，是不允许的。啊呀！梅格会怎么说？““你不能告诉任何人，请注意。““我并没许诺。““你早就明白 的，而我也相信你。““嗯，我目前不会说出去，但我恶心死了，宁愿你没告诉我。““我以为你会高兴呢。““高兴别人来把梅格夺走？想得真美！““等到也有 人来把你夺走时，你心里就会好受一点了。““我倒要看看谁敢，“乔恶狠狠地叫道。
“等我老得走不动了，不得不用上拐杖，那时再说吧。别使劲催我提早长人，梅格，看到你一下子变了个人已经够难受了，就让我做个小姑娘吧，能做多久是 多久。“乔边说边埋下头，让红叶遮住自己那轻轻抖动的双唇。她最近感觉到玛格丽特正迅速长成一个女人，姐妹分离是一定的事情，但劳里的秘密使这一天变得似 乎近在眼前，她心中十分恐惧。劳里看到她满脸悲泣，为了分散梅格的注意力，赶紧问：“你刚才上哪儿去来，穿得这么漂亮。““加德纳家。莎莉跟我谈了贝儿· 莫法特的婚礼。婚礼极尽奢华，一对新人已去巴黎过冬了。想想那该有多么浪漫！““你是不是嫉妒她，梅格？“劳里问。
此后的一段日子里，乔行为古怪，令姐妹们个个摸不着蛊头脑。但逢邮递员一按门铃，她便冲到门前，每当见到布鲁克先生，她就粗声粗气，常常坐在一边愁 眉苦脸地望着梅格，一会跳起来摇摇她，然后又莫明其妙地亲她一下；劳里和她常常互相打暗号，并谈论什么"展翼鹰"。姐妹们终于断言这对人物全都失了魂儿。 在乔从窗子跳出去后的第二个星期六，梅格坐在窗边做针线活，看到劳里满园子追逐乔，最后在艾美的花荫下把乔捉住了，不免心生反感。她看不到两人在里头干什 么，只听到一阵尖笑声，随后听到一阵咕咕哝哝的低语声和一声响亮的拍击报纸声。
哦，姐妹们的兴奋真是难以言状！梅格怎么也不相信这是真的，直到看到"约瑟芬·马奇小姐"白纸黑字印在报上时，这才信了；艾美彬彬有礼地对艺术性章 节批评一番，又提供一些写续集的线索，可惜故事不能再续，因为男女主角都死掉了；贝思兴奋不已，高兴得又唱又跳；罕娜进来看到"乔的东西"时惊愕得大喊大 叫；马奇太太知道后更是倍感自蛊豪；乔笑得流出了眼泪，宣布自己已出足了风头，就是死也是值得的了；报纸从大家手上传来传去，这份"展翼鹰"就像真正的雄 鹰一样在马奇家上空振翅高飞！
“别叽叽喳喳了，姑娘们，听我把事情从头道来，“为自己的《画家争雄》倍感得意的乔说，怀疑伯尼小姐对她的《埃维莉娜》是不是感到更光荣一些。她告 诉大家自己如何把两篇故事送出，然后又说：“当我去询问结果时，编辑说两其他都喜欢，但处女作没有稿酬，他们只把作者的名字登在报上，并对故事进行评论。 这是一种很好的锻炼，编辑说，处女作作者的水平提高后，谁都愿意付钱。所以我把两篇故事都交由他发表。今天我收到了这一篇，劳里撞见了，一定要看看，我便 让他看了；他说写得好，我准备再写一些，他去弄妥下次的稿酬。我真高兴死了，因为不久后我便能够养活自己并帮助各位姐妹。“乔喘了一口气，把头藏在报纸里 头，情不自禁地洒下几滴泪珠，把自己的小故事滴湿了；自食其力、赢得所爱的人的称赞是她心头最大的愿望，今天的成功似乎是迈向幸福终点的第一步。
Jo was very busy in the garret, for the October days beganto grow chilly, and the afternoons were short. For two or threehours the sun lay warmly in the high window, showing Jo seatedon the old sofa, writing busily, with her papers spread outupon a trunk before her, while Scrabble, the pet rat,promenaded the beams overhead, accompanied by his oldest son,a fine young fellow, who was evidently very proud of his whiskers.Quite absorbed in her work, Jo scribbled away till the last pagewas filled, when she signed her name with a flourish and threwdown her pen, exclaiming...
"There, I've done my best! If this won't suit I shall haveto wait till I can do better."
Lying back on the sofa, she read the manuscript carefullythrough, making dashes here and there, and putting in manyexclamation points, which looked like little balloons. Then shetied it up with a smart red ribbon, and sat a minute looking atit with a sober, wistful expression, which plainly showed howernest her work had been. Jo's desk up here was an old tinkitchen which hung against the wall. It it she kept her papers,and a few books, safely shut away from Scrabble, who, beinglikewise of a literary turn, was fond of making a circulatinglibrary of such books as were left in his way by eating theleaves. From this tin receptacle Jo produced another manuscript,and putting both in her pocket, crept quietly downstairs, leavingher friends to nibble on her pens and taste her ink.
She put on her hat and jacket as noiselessly as possible, andgoing to the back entry window, got out upon the roof of a lowporch, swung herself down to the grassy bank, and took a roundaboutway to the road. Once there, she composed herself, hailed a passingomnibus, and rolled away to town, looking very merry and mysterious.
If anyone had been watching her, he would have thought hermovements decidedly peculiar, for on alighting, she went off at agreat pace till she reached a certain number in a certain busystreet. Having found the place with some difficulty, she wentinto the doorway, looked up the dirty stairs, and after standingstock still a minute, suddenly dived into the street and walkedaway as rapidly as she came. This maneuver she repeated severaltimes, to the great amusement of a black-eyed young gentlemanlounging in the window of a building opposite. On returning forthe third time, Jo gave herself a shake, pulled her hat over hereyes, and walked up the stairs, looking as if she were going tohave all her teeth out.
There was a dentist's sign, among others, which adorned theentrance, and after staring a moment at the pair of artificialjaws which slowly opened and shut to draw attention to a fineset of teeth, the young gentleman put on his coat, took his hat,and went down to post himself in the opposite doorway, sayingwith a smile and a shiver, "It's like her to come alone, but ifshe has a bad time she'll need someone to help her home."
In ten minutes Jo came running downstairs with a very redface and the general appearance of a person who had just passedthrough a trying ordeal of some sort. When she saw the younggentleman she looked anything but pleased, and passed him with anod. But he followed, asking with an air of sympathy, "Did youhave a bad time?"
"You got through quickly."
"Yes, thank goodness!"
"Why did you go alone?"
"Didn't want anyone to know."
"You're the oddest fellow I ever saw. How many did youhave out?"
Jo looked at her friend as if she did not understand him, thenbegan to laugh as if mightily amused at something.
"There are two which I want to have come out, but I must waita week."
"What are you laughing at? You are up to some mischief, Jo,"said Laurie, looking mystified.
"So are you. What were you doing, sir, up in that billiardsaloon?"
"Begging your pardon, ma'am, it wasn't a billiard saloon, buta gymnasium, and I was taking a lesson in fencing."
"I'm glad of that."
"You can teach me, and then when we play HAMLET, you can beLaertes, and we'll make a fine thing of the fencing scene."
"Laurie burst out with a hearty boy's laugh, which madeseveral passers-by smile in spite of themselves.
"I'll teach you whether we play HAMLET or not. It's grandfun and will straighten you up capitally. But I don't believethat was your only reason for saying `I'm glad' in that decidedway, was it now?"
"No, I was glad that you were not in the saloon, because Ihope you never go to such places. Do you?"
"I wish you wouldn't."
"It's no harm, Jo. I have billiards at home, but it's no fununless you have good players, so, as I'm fond of it, I come sometimesand have a game with Ned Moffat or some of the other fellows."
"Oh, dear, I'm so sorry, for you'll get to liking it better andbetter, and will waste time and money, and grow like those dreadfulboys. I did hope you'd stay respectable and be a satisfaction toyour friends," said Jo, shaking her head.
"Can't a fellow take a little innocent amusement now and thenwithout losing his respectability?" asked Laurie, looking nettled.
"That depends upon how and where he takes it. I don't likeNed and his set, and wish you'd keep out of it. Mother won't letus have him at our house, though he wants to come. And if yougrow like him she won't be willing to have us frolic together aswe do now."
"Won't she?" asked Laurie anxiously.
"No, she can't bear fashionable young men, and she'd shut usall up in bandboxes rather than have us associate with them."
"Well, she needn't get out her bandboxes yet. I'm not afashionable party and don't mean to be, but I do like harmlesslarks now and then, don't you?"
"Yes, nobody minds them, so lark away, but don't get wild,will you? Or there will be an end of all our good times."
"I'll be a double distilled saint."
"I can't bear saints. Just be a simple, honest, respectableboy, and we'll never desert you. I don't know what I should doif you acted like Mr. King's son. He had plenty of money, butdidn't know how to spend it, and got tipsy and gambled, and ranaway, and forged his father's name, I believe, and was altogetherhorrid."
"You think I'm likely to do the same? Much obliged."
"No, I don't--oh, dear, no!--but I hear people talking aboutmoney being such a temptation, and I sometimes wish you were poor.I shouldn't worry then."
"Do you worry about me, Jo?"
"A little, when you look moody and discontented, as you sometimes do,for you've got such a strong will, if you once get started wrong,I'm afraid it would be hard to stop you."
Laurie walked in silence a few minutes, and Jo watched him,wishing she had held her tongue, for his eyes looked angry, thoughhis lips smiled as if at her warnings.
"Are you going to deliver lectures all the way home?" heasked presently.
"Of course not. Why?"
"Because if you are, I'll take a bus. If you're not, I'd liketo walk with you and tell you something very interesting."
"I won't preach any more, and I'd like to hear the newsimmensely."
"Very well, then, come on. It's a secret, and if I tell you,you must tell me yours."
"I haven't got any," began Jo, but stopped suddenly,remembering that she had.
"You know you have--you can't hide anything, so up and fess,or I won't tell," cried Laurie.
"Is your secret a nice one?"
"Oh, isn't it! All about people you know, and such fun! Youought to hear it, and I've been aching to tell it this long time.Come, you begin."
"You'll not say anything about it at home, will you?"
"Not a word."
"And you won't tease me in private?"
"I never tease."
"Yes, you do. You get everything you want out of people. Idon't know how you do it, but you are a born wheedler."
"Thank you. Fire away."
"Well, I've left two stories with a newspaperman, and he's togive his answer next week," whispered Jo, in her confidant's ear.
"Hurrah for Miss March, the celebrated American authoress!"cried Laurie, throwing up his hat and catching it again, to thegreat delight of two ducks, four cats, five hens, and half adozen Irish children, for they were out of the city now."Hush! It won't come to anything, I dare say, but I couldn'trest till I had tried, and I said nothing about it because I didn'twant anyone else to be disappointed."
"It won't fail. Why, Jo, your stories are works of Shakespearecompared to half the rubbish that is published every day.Won't it be fun to see them in print, and shan't we feel proud ofour authoress?"
Jo's eyes sparkled, for it is always pleasant to be believedin, and a friend's praise is always sweeter than a dozen newspaperpuffs.
"Where's your secret? Play fair, Teddy, or I'll never believeyou again," she said, trying to extinguish the brilliant hopes thatblazed up at a word of encouragement.
"I may get into a scrape for telling, but I didn't promisenot to, so I will, for I never feel easy in my mind till I've toldyou any plummy bit of news I get. I know where Meg's glove is."
"Is that all? said Jo, looking disappointed, as Laurie noddedand twinkled with a face full of mysterious intelligence.
"It's quite enough for the present, as you'll agree when Itell you where it is."
Laurie bent, and whispered three words in Jo's ear, whichproduced a comical change. She stood and stared at him for aminute, looking both surprised and displeased, then walked on,saying sharply, "How do you know?"
"All this time?"
"Yes, isn't that romantic?"
"No, it's horrid."
"Don't you like it?"
"Of course I don't. It's ridiculous, it won't be allowed. Mypatience! What would Meg say?"
"You are not to tell anyone. Mind that."
"I didn't promise."
"That was understood, and I trusted you."
"Well, I won't for the present, anyway, but I'm disgusted, andwish you hadn't told me."
"I thought you'd be pleased."
"At the idea of anybody coming to take Meg away? No, thank you."
"You'll feel better about it when somebody comes to take youaway."
"I'd like to see anyone try it," cried Jo fiercely.
"So should I!" And Laurie chuckled at the idea.
"I don't think secrets agree with me, I feel rumpled up inmy mind since you told me that," said Jo rather ungratefully.
"Race down this hill with me, and you'll be all right,"suggested Laurie.
No one was in sight, the smooth road sloped invitingly beforeher, and finding the temptation irresistible, Jo darted away, soonleaving hat and comb behind her and scattering hairpins as she ran.Laurie reached the goal first and was quite satisfied with thesuccess of his treatment, for his Atalanta came panting upwith flying hair, bright eyes, ruddy cheeks, and no signs ofdissatisfaction in her face.
"I wish I was a horse, then I could run for miles in thissplendid air, and not lose my breath. It was capital, but seewhat a guy it's made me. Go, pick up my things, like a cherub,as you are," said Jo, dropping down under a maple tree, whichwas carpeting the bank with crimson leaves.
Laurie leisurely departed to recover the lost property, andJo bundled up her braids, hoping no one would pass by till shewas tidy again. But someone did pass, and who should it be butMeg, looking particularly ladylike in her state and festivalsuit, for she had been making calls.
"What in the world are you doing here?" she asked, regardingher disheveled sister with well-bred surprise.
"Getting leaves," meekly answered Jo, sorting the rosy handfulshe had just swept up.
"And hairpins," added Laurie, throwing half a dozen into Jo'slap. "They grow on this road, Meg, so do combs and brown strawhats."
"You have been running, Jo. How could you? When will you stopsuch romping ways?" said Meg reprovingly, as she settled her cuffsand smoothed her hair, with which the wind had taken liberties.
"Never till I'm stiff and old and have to use a crutch. Don'ttry to make me grow up before my time, Meg. It's hard enough tohave you change all of a sudden. Let me be a little girl as longas I can."
As she spoke, Jo bent over the leaves to hide the tremblingof her lips, for lately she had felt that Margaret was fast gettingto be a woman, and Laurie's secret made her dread the separationwhich must surely come some time and now seemed very near. He sawthe trouble in her face and drew Meg's attention from it by askingquickly, "Where have you been calling, all so fine?"
"At the Gardiners', and Sallie has been telling me all aboutBelle Moffat's wedding. It was very splendid, and they have goneto spend the winter in Paris. Just think how delightful thatmust be!"
"Do you envy her, Meg?" said Laurie.
"I'm afraid I do."
"I'm glad of it!" muttered Jo, tying on her hat with a jerk.
"Why?" asked Meg, looking surprised.
"Because if you care much about riches, you will never go andmarry a poor man," said Jo, frowning at Laurie, who was mutelywarning her to mind what she said.
"I shall never `go and marry' anyone," observed Meg, walkingon with great dignity while the others followed, laughing,whispering, skipping stones, and `behaving like children',as Meg said to herself, though she might have been temptedto join them if she had not had her best dress on.
For a week or two, Jo behaved so queerly that her sisterswere quite bewildered. She rushed to the door when the postmanrang, was rude to Mr. Brooke whenever they met, would sit lookingat Meg with a woe-begone face, occasionally jumping up to shakeand then kiss her in a very mysterious manner. Laurie and shewere always making signs to one another, and talking about`Spread Eagles' till the girls declared they had both lost theirwits. On the second Saturday after Jo got out of the window, Meg,as she sat sewing at her window, was scandalized by the sight ofLaurie chasing Jo all over the garden and finally capturing herin Amy's bower. What went on there, Meg could not see, but shrieksof laughter were heard, followed by the murmur of voices and agreat flapping of newspapers.
"What shall we do with that girl? She never will behave likea young lady," sighed Meg, as she watched the race with adisapproving face.
"I hope she won't. She is so funny and dear as she is," saidBeth, who had never betrayed that she was a little hurt at Jo'shaving secrets with anyone but her.
"It's very trying, but we never can make her commy la fo,"added Amy, who sat making some new frills for herself, with hercurls tied up in a very becoming way., two agreeable things thatmade her feel unusually elegant and ladylike.
In a few minutes Jo bounced in, laid herself on the sofa,and affected to read.
"Have you anything interesting there?" asked Meg, with condescension.
"Nothing but a story, won't amount to much, I guess," returnedJo, carefully keeping the name of the paper out of sight.
"You'd better read it aloud. That will amuse us and keep youout of mischief," said Amy in her most grown-up tone.
"What's the name?" asked Beth, wondering why Jo kept her facebehind the sheet.
"The Rival Painters."
"That sounds well. Read it," said Meg.
With a loud "Hem!" and a long breath, Jo began to read veryfast. The girls listened with interest, for the tale was romantic,and somewhat pathetic, as most of the characters died in the end."I like that about the splendid picture," was Amy's approvingremark, as Jo paused.
"I prefer the lovering part. Viola and Angelo are two of ourfavorite names, isn't that queer?" said Meg, wiping her eyes, forthe lovering part was tragical.
"Who wrote it?" asked Beth, who had caught a glimpse of Jo'sface.
The reader suddenly sat up, cast away the paper, displayinga flushed countenance, and with a funny mixture of solemnity andexcitement replied in a loud voice, "Your sister."
"You?" cried Meg, dropping her work.
"It's very good," said Amy critically.
"I knew it! I knew it! Oh, my Jo, I am so proud!" And Bethran to hug her sister and exult over this splendid success.
Dear me, how delighted they all were, to be sure! How Megwouldn't believe it till she saw the words. "Miss JosephineMarch," actually printed in the paper. How graciously Amycritisized the artistic parts of the story, and offered hints fora sequel, which unfortunately couldn't be carried out, as thehero and heroine were dead. How Beth got excited, and skippedand sang with joy. How Hannah came in to exclaim, "Sakes alive,well I never!" in great astonishment at `that Jo's doin's'. Howproud Mrs. March was when she knew it. How Jo laughed, withtears in her eyes, as she declared she might as well be a peacockand done with it. and how th `Spread Eagle' might be said toflap his wings triumphantly over the House of March, as thepaper passed from hand to hand.
"Tell us about it." "When did it come?" "How much did youget for it?" "What will Father say?" "Won't Laurie laugh?" criedthe family, all in one breath as they clustered about Jo, forthese foolish, affectionate people mad a jubilee of every littlehousehold joy.
"Stop jabbering, girls, and I'll tell you everything,"said Jo, wondering if Miss Burney felt any grander over herEvilina than she did over her `Rival Painters'. Having toldhow she disposed of her tales, Jo added, "And when I went toget my answer, the man said he liked them both, but didn'tpay beginners, only let them print in his paper, and noticedthe stories. It was good practice, he said, and when thebeginners improved, anyone would pay. So I let him have the twostories, and today this was sent to me, and Laurie caught mewith it and insisted on seeing it, so I let him. And he saidit was good, and I shall write more, and he's going to get thenext paid for, and I am so happy, for in time I may be able tosupport myself and help the girls."
Jo's breath gave out here, and wrapping her head in thepaper, she bedewed her little story with a few natural tears,for to be independent and earn the praise of those she lovedwere the dearest wishes of her heart, and this seemed to be thefirst step toward that happy end.