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Chapter 10 – The P.C. And P.O.

Louisa May AlcottJun 22, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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As spring came on, a new set of amusements became the
fashion, and the lengthening days gave long afternoons for
work and play of all sorts. The garden had to be put in order,
and each sister had a quarter of the little plot to do what she
liked with. Hannah used to say, "I’d know which each of them
gardings belonged to, ef I see ’em in Chiny," and so she might,
for the girls’ tastes differed as much as their characters. Meg’s
had roses and heliotrope, myrtle, and a little orange tree in it.
Jo’s bed was never alike two seasons, for she was always trying
experiments. This year it was to be a plantation of sun flowers,
the seeds of which cheerful land aspiring plant were to feed
Aunt Cockle-top and her family of chicks. Beth had old-fashioned
fragrant flowers in her garden, sweet peas and mignonette,
larkspur, pinks, pansies, and southernwood, with chickweed for
the birds and catnip for the pussies. Amy had a bower in hers,
rather small and earwiggy, but very pretty to look at, with
honeysuckle and morning-glories hanging their colored horns and
bells in graceful wreaths all over it, tall white lilies, delicate
ferns, and as many brilliant, picturesque plants as would consent
to blossom there.

Gardening, walks, rows on the river, and flower hunts employed
the fine days, and for rainy ones, they had house diversions,
some old, some new, all more or less original. One of these
was the ‘P.C.’, for as secret societies were the fashion,
it was thought proper to have one, and as all of the girls
admired Dickens, they called themselves the Pickwick Club. With
a few interruptions, they had kept this up for a year, and met
every Saturday evening in the big garret, on which occasions the
ceremonies were as follows: Three chairs were arranged in a row
before a table on which was a lamp, also four white badges, with
a big ‘P.C.’ in different colors on each, and the weekly
newspaper called, The Pickwick Portfolio, to which all contributed
something, while Jo, who reveled in pens and ink, was the editor.
At seven o’clock, the four members ascended to the clubroom,
tied their badges round their heads, and took their seats with
great solemnity. Meg, as the eldest, was Samuel Pickwick, Jo,
being of a literary turn, Augustus Snodgrass, Beth, because she
was round and rosy, Tracy Tupman, and Amy, who was always trying
to do what she couldn’t, was Nathaniel Winkle. Pickwick, the
president, read the paper, which was filled with original tales,
poetry, local news, funny advertisements, and hints, in which
they good-naturedly reminded each other of their faults and
short comings. On one occasion, Mr. Pickwick put on a pair
of spectacles without any glass, rapped upon the table, hemmed,
and having stared hard at Mr. Snodgrass, who was tilting back
in his chair, till he arranged himself properly, began to read:

__________________________________________________

"THE PICKWICK PORTFOLIO"

MAY 20, 18 – –

POET’S CORNER

ANNIVERSARY ODE

Again we meet to celebrate

With badge and solemn rite,

Our fifty-second anniversary,

In Pickwick Hall, tonight.

We all are here in perfect health,

None gone from our small band:

Again we see each well-known face,

And press each friendly hand.

Our Pickwick, always at his post,

With reverence we greet,

As, spectacles on nose, he reads

Our well-filled weekly sheet.

Although he suffers from a cold,

We joy to hear him speak,

For words of wisdom from him fall,

In spite of croak or squeak.

Old six-foot Snodgrass looms on high,

With elephantine grace,

And beams upon the company,

With brown and jovial face.

Poetic fire lights up his eye,

He struggles ‘gainst his lot.

Behold ambition on his brow,

And on his nose, a blot.

Next our peaceful Tupman comes,

So rosy, plump, and sweet,

Who chokes with laughter at the puns,

And tumbles off his seat.

Prim little Winkle too is here,

With every hair in place,

A model of propriety,

Though he hates to wash his face.

The year is gone, we still unite

To joke and laugh and read,

And tread the path of literature

That doth to glory lead.

Long may our paper prosper well,

Our club unbroken be,

And coming years their blessings pour

On the useful, gay ‘P. C.’.

A. SNODGRASS

________

THE MASKED MARRIAGE

(A Tale Of Venice)

Gondola after gondola swept up to the marble

steps, and left its lovely load to swell the

brilliant throng that filled the stately halls of Count

Adelon. Knights and ladies, elves and pages, monks

and flower girls, all mingled gaily in the dance.

Sweet voices and rich melody filled the air, and so

with mirth and music the masquerade went on.

"Has your Highness seen the Lady Viola tonight?"

asked a gallant troubadour of the fairy queen who

floated down the hall upon his arm.

"Yes, is she not lovely, though so sad! Her

dress is well chosen, too, for in a week she weds

Count Antonio, whom she passionately hates."

"By my faith, I envy him. Yonder he comes,

arrayed like a bridegroom, except the black mask.

When that is off we shall see how he regards the

fair maid whose heart he cannot win, though her

stern father bestows her hand," returned the troubadour.

"Tis whispered that she loves the young English

artist who haunts her steps, and is spurned by the

old Count," said the lady, as they joined the dance.

The revel was at its height when a priest

appeared, and withdrawing the young pair to an alcove,

hung with purple velvet, he motioned them to kneel.

Instant silence fell on the gay throng, and not a

sound, but the dash of fountains or the rustle of

orange groves sleeping in the moonlight, broke the

hush, as Count de Adelon spoke thus:

"My lords and ladies, pardon the ruse by which

I have gathered you here to witness the marriage of

my daughter. Father, we wait your services."

All eyes turned toward the bridal party, and a

murmur of amazement went through the throng, for

neither bride nor groom removed their masks. Curiosity

and wonder possessed all hearts, but respect restrained

all tongues till the holy rite was over. Then the

eager spectators gathered round the count, demanding

an explanation.

"Gladly would I give it if I could, but I only

know that it was the whim of my timid Viola, and I

yielded to it. Now, my children, let the play end.

Unmask and receive my blessing."

But neither bent the knee, for the young bridegroom

replied in a tone that startled all listeners

as the mask fell, disclosing the noble face of Ferdinand

Devereux, the artist lover, and leaning on the

breast where now flashed the star of an English earl

was the lovely Viola, radiant with joy and beauty.

"My lord, you scornfully bade me claim your

daughter when I could boast as high a name and vast a

fortune as the Count Antonio. I can do more, for even

your ambitious soul cannot refuse the Earl of Devereux

and De Vere, when he gives his ancient name and boundless

wealth in return for the beloved hand of this fair lady,

now my wife."

The count stood like one changed to stone, and

turning to the bewildered crowd, Ferdinand added, with

a gay smile of triumph, "To you, my gallant friends, I

can only wish that your wooing may prosper as mine has

done, and that you may all win as fair a bride as I have

by this masked marriage."

S. PICKWICK

Why is the P. C. like the Tower of Babel?

It is full of unruly members.

___________

THE HISTORY OF A SQUASH

Once upon a time a farmer planted a little seed

in his garden, and after a while it sprouted and became

a vine and bore many squashes. One day in October,

when they were ripe, he picked one and took it

to market. A gorcerman bought and put it in his shop.

That same morning, a little girl in a brown hat

and blue dress, with a round face and snub nose, went

and bought it for her mother. She lugged it home, cut

it up, and boiled it in the big pot, mashed some of it

with salt and butter, for dinner. And to the rest she added

a pint of milk, two eggs, four spoons of sugar, nutmeg,

and some crackers, put it in a deep dish, and baked it

till it was brown and nice, and next day it was eaten

by a family named March.

T. TUPMAN

_____________

Mr. Pickwick, Sir: –

I address you upon the subject of sin the sinner

I mean is a man named Winkle who makes trouble in his

club by laughing and sometimes won’t write his piece in

this fine paper I hope you will pardon his badness and

let him send a French fable because he can’t write out

of his head as he has so many lessons to do and no brains

in future I will try to take time by the fetlock and

prepare some work which will be all commy la fo that

means all right I am in haste as it is nearly school

time.

Yours respectably,

N. WINKLE

[The above is a manly and handsome aknowledgment of past

misdemeanors. If our young friend studied punctuation, it

would be well.]

_________

A SAD ACCIDENT

On Friday last, we were startled by a violent shock

in our basement, followed by cries of distress.

On rushing in a body to the cellar, we discovered our beloved

President prostrate upon the floor, having tripped and

fallen while getting wood for domestic purposes. A perfect

scene of ruin met our eyes, for in his fall Mr. Pickwick

had plunged his head and shoulders into a tub of water,

upset a keg of soft soap upon his manly form, and torn

his garments badly. On being removed from this perilous

situation, it was discovered that he had suffered

no injury but several bruises, and we are happy to add,

is now doing well.

ED.

_________

THE PUBLIC BEREAVEMENT

It is our painful duty to record the sudden and

mysterious disappearance of our cherished friend, Mrs.

Snowball Pat Paw. This lovely and beloved cat was the

pet of a large circle of warm and admiring friends; for

her beauty attracted all eyes, her graces and virtues

endeared her to all hearts, and her loss is deeply felt

by the whole community.

When last seen, she was sitting at the gate, watching

the butcher’s cart, and it is feared that some villain,

tempted by her charms, basely stole her. Weeks have passed,

but no trace of her has been discovered, and we relinquish

all hope, tie a black ribbon to her basket, set aside her

dish, and weep for her as one lost to us forever.

_________

A sympathizing friend sends the following gem:

A LAMENT

(FOR S. B. PAT PAW)

We mourn the loss of our little pet,

And sigh o’er her hapless fate,

For never more by the fire she’ll sit,

Nor play by the old green gate.

The little grave where her infant sleeps

Is ‘neath the chestnut tree.

But o’er her grave we may not weep,

We know not where it may be.

Her empty bed, her idle ball,

Will never see her more;

No gentle tap, no loving purr

Is heard at the parlor door.

Another cat comes after her mice,

A cat with a dirty face,

But she does not hunt as our darling did,

Nor play with her airy grace.

Her stealthy paws tread the very hall

Where Snowball used to play,

But she only spits at the dogs our pet

So gallantly drove away.

She is useful and mild, and does her best,

But she is not fair to see,

And we cannot give her your place dear,

Nor worship her as we worship thee.

A.S.

_________

ADVERTISEMENTS

MISS ORANTHY BLUGGAGE, the accomplished

strong-minded lecturer, will deliver her

famous lecture on "WOMAN AND HER POSITION"

at Pickwick Hall, next Saturday Evening,

after the usual performances.

A WEEKLY MEETING will be held at Kitchen

Place, to teach young ladies how to cook.

Hannah Brown will preside, and all are

invited to attend.

The DUSTPAN SOCIETY will meet on Wednesday

next, and parade in the upper story of the

Club House. All members to appear in uniform

and shoulder their brooms at nine precisely.

Mrs. BETH BOUNCER will open her new

assortment of Doll’s Millinery next week.

The latest Paris fashions have arrived,

and orders are respectfully solicited.

A NEW PLAY will appear at the Barnville

Theatre, in the course of a few weeks, which

will surpass anything ever seen on the American stage.

"The Greek Slave, or Constantine the Avenger," is the name

of this thrilling drama!!!

HINTS

If S.P. didn’t use so much soap on his hands,

he wouldn’t always be late at breakfast. A.S.

is requested not to whistle in the street. T.T

please don’t forget Amy’s napkin. N.W. must

not fret because his dress has not nine tucks.

WEEKLY REPORT

Meg – Good.

Jo – Bad.

Beth – Very Good.

Amy – Middling.

__________________________________________________

As the President finished reading the paper (which I beg
leave to assure my readers is a bona fide copy of one written
by bona fide girls once upon a time), a round of applause
followed, and then Mr. Snodgrass rose to make a proposition.

"Mr. President and gentlemen," he began, assuming a
parliamentary attitude and tone, "I wish to propose the admission
of a new member – one who highly deserves the honor, would be
deeply grateful for it, and would add immensely to the spirit
of the club, the literary value of the paper, and be no end
jolly and nice. I propose Mr. Theodore Laurence as an honorary
member of the P. C. Come now, do have him."

Jo’s sudden change of tone made the girls laugh, but all
looked rather anxious, and no one said a word as Snodgrass
took his seat.

"We’ll put it to a vote," said the President. "All in
favor of this motion please to manifest it by saying, ‘Aye’."

A loud response from Snodgrass, followed, to everybody’s
surprise, by a timid one from Beth.

"Contrary-minded say, ‘No’."

Meg and Amy were contrary-minded, and Mr. Winkle rose to
say with great elegance, "We don’t wish any boys, they only
joke and bounce about. This is a ladies’ club, and we wish to
be private and proper."

"I’m afraid he’ll laugh at our paper, and make fun of us
afterward," observed Pickwick, pulling the little curl on her
forehead, as she always did when doubtful.

Up rose Snodgrass, very much in earnest. "Sir, I give you
my word as a gentleman, Laurie won’t do anything of the sort. He
likes to write, and he’ll give a tone to our contributions and
keep us from being sentimental, don’t you see? We can do so little
for him, and he does so much for us, I think the least we can do
is to offer him a place here, and make him welcome if he comes."

This artful allusion to benefits conferred brought Tupman to
his feet, looking as if he had quite made up his mind.

"Yes; we ought to do it, even if we are afraid. I say he may
come, and his grandpa, too, if he likes."

This spirited burst from Beth electrified the club, and Jo
left her seat to shake hands approvingly. "Now then, vote again.
Everybody remember it’s our Laurie, and say, ‘Aye!’"
cried Snodgrass excitedly.

"Aye! Aye! Aye!" replied three voices at once.

"Good! Bless you! Now, as there’s nothing like ‘taking time
by the fetlock’, as Winkle characteristically observes, allow me
to present the new member." And, to the dismay of the rest of the
club, Jo threw open the door of the closet, and displayed Laurie
sitting on a rag bag, flushed and twinkling with suppressed laughter.

"You rogue! You traitor! Jo, how could you?" cried the three
girls, as Snodgrass led her friend triumphantly forth, and producing
both a chair and a badge, installed him in a jiffy.

"The coolness of you two rascals is amazing," began Mr. Pickwick,
trying to get up an awful frown and only succeeding in producing
an amiable smile. But the new member was equal to the occasion,
and rising, with a grateful salutation to the Chair, said
in the most engaging manner, "Mr. President and ladies – I beg pardon,
gentlemen – allow me to introduce myself as Sam Weller, the very
humble servant of the club."

"Good! Good!" cried Jo, pounding with the handle of the old
warming pan on which she leaned.

"My faithful friend and noble patron," continued Laurie with
a wave of the hand, "who has so flatteringly presented me, is not
to be blamed for the base stratagem of tonight. I planned it, and
she only gave in after lots of teasing."

"Come now, don’t lay it all on yourself. You know I proposed
the cupboard," broke in Snodgrass, who was enjoying the joke
amazingly.

"Never mind what she says. I’m the wretch that did it, sir,"
said the new member, with a Welleresque nod to Mr. Pickwick. "But
on my honor, I never will do so again, and henceforth devote myself
to the interest of this immortal club."

"Hear! Hear!" cried Jo, clashing the lid of the warming pan
like a cymbal.

"Go on, go on!" added Winkle and Tupman, while the President
bowed benignly.

"I merely wish to say, that as a slight token of my gratitude
for the honor done me, and as a means of promoting friendly relations
between adjoining nations, I have set up a post office in the hedge
in the lower corner of the garden, a fine, spacious building with
padlocks on the doors and every convenience for the mails, also the
females, if I may be allowed the expression. It’s the old martin
house, but I’ve stopped up the door and made the roof open, so it
will hold all sorts of things, and save our valuable time. Letters,
manuscripts, books, and bundles can be passed in there, and as each
nation has a key, it will be uncommonly nice, I fancy. Allow me to
present the club key, and with many thanks for your favor, take my
seat."

Great applause as Mr. Weller deposited a little key on the
table and subsided, the warming pan clashed and waved wildly, and
it was some time before order could be restored. A long discussion
followed, and everyone came out surprising, for everyone did her
best. So it was an unusually lively meeting, and did not adjourn
till a late hour, when it broke up with three shrill cheers for the
new member.

No one ever regretted the admittance of Sam Weller, for
a more devoted, well-behaved, and jovial member no club could have.
He certainly did add ‘spirit’ to the meetings, and ‘a tone’ to the
paper, for his orations convulsed his hearers and his contributions
were excellent, being patriotic, classical, comical, or dramatic,
but never sentimental. Jo regarded them as worthy of Bacon, Milton,
or Shakespeare, and remodeled her own works with good effect, she
thought.

The P. O. was a capital little institution, and flourished
wonderfully, for nearly as many queer things passed through it as
through the real post office. Tragedies and cravats, poetry and
pickles, garden seeds and long letters, music and gingerbread,
rubbers, invitations, scoldings, and puppies. The old gentleman
liked the fun, and amused himself by sending odd bundles,
mysterious messages, and funny telegrams, and his gardener, who was
smitten with Hannah’s charms, actually sent a love letter to Jo’s
care. How they laughed when the secret came out, never dreaming
how many love letters that little post office would hold in the
years to come.

 

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