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Chapter 44 – My Lord And Lady

Louisa May AlcottJun 23, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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"Please, Madam Mother, could you lend me my wife for half
an hour? The luggage has come, and I’ve been making hay of
Amy’s Paris finery, trying to find some things I want," said
Laurie, coming in the next day to find Mrs. Laurence sitting
in her mother’s lap, as if being made ‘the baby’ again.

"Certainly. Go, dear, I forgot that you have any home but
this," and Mrs. March pressed the white hand that wore the wedding
ring, as if asking pardon for her maternal covetousness.

"I shouldn’t have come over if I could have helped it, but
I can’t get on without my little woman any more than a . . ."

"Weathercock can without the wind," suggested Jo, as he
paused for a simile. Jo had grown quite her own saucy self
again since Teddy came home.

"Exactly, for Amy keeps me pointing due west most of the
time, with only an occasional whiffle round to the south, and
I haven’t had an easterly spell since I was married. Don’t know
anything about the north, but am altogether salubrious and balmy,
hey, my lady?"

"Lovely weather so far. I don’t know how long it will last,
but I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my
ship. Come home, dear, and I’ll find your bootjack. I suppose
that’s what you are rummaging after among my things. Men are so
helpless, Mother," said Amy, with a matronly air, which delighted
her husband.

"What are you going to do with yourselves after you get settled?"
asked Jo, buttoning Amy’s cloak as she used to button her pinafores.

"We have our plans. We don’t mean to say much about them
yet, because we are such very new brooms, but we don’t intend to
be idle. I’m going into business with a devotion that shall delight
Grandfather, and prove to him that I’m not spoiled. I need
something of the sort to keep me steady. I’m tired of dawdling,
and mean to work like a man."

"And Amy, what is she going to do?" asked Mrs. March, well
pleased at Laurie’s decision and the energy with which he spoke.

"After doing the civil all round, and airing our best bonnet,
we shall astonish you by the elegant hospitalities of our mansion,
the brilliant society we shall draw about us, and the beneficial
influence we shall exert over the world at large. That’s about
it, isn’t it, Madame Recamier?" asked Laurie with a quizzical
look at Amy.

"Time will show. Come away, Impertinence, and don’t shock
my family by calling me names before their faces," answered Amy,
resolving that there should be a home with a good wife in it
before she set up a salon as a queen of society.

"How happy those children seem together!" observed Mr. March,
finding it difficult to become absorbed in his Aristotle after
the young couple had gone.

"Yes, and I think it will last," added Mrs. March, with the
restful expression of a pilot who has brought a ship safely into
port.

"I know it will. Happy Amy!" and Jo sighed, then smiled
brightly as Professor Bhaer opened the gate with an impatient
push.

Later in the evening, when his mind had been set at rest
about the bootjack, Laurie said suddenly to his wife, "Mrs.
Laurence."

"My Lord!"

"That man intends to marry our Jo!"

"I hope so, don’t you, dear?"

"Well, my love, I consider him a trump, in the fullest sense
of that expressive word, but I do wish he was a little younger
and a good deal richer."

"Now, Laurie, don’t be too fastidious and worldly-minded.
If they love one another it doesn’t matter a particle how old
they are nor how poor. Women never should marry for money . . ."
Amy caught herself up short as the words escaped her, and looked
at her husband, who replied, with malicious gravity . . .

"Certainly not, though you do hear charming girls say that
they intend to do it sometimes. If my memory serves me, you
once thought it your duty to make a rich match. That accounts,
perhaps, for your marrying a good-for-nothing like me."

"Oh, my dearest boy, don’t, don’t say that! I forgot you
were rich when I said ‘Yes’. I’d have married you if you hadn’t
a penny, and I sometimes wish you were poor that I might show
how much I love you." And Amy, who was very dignified in public
and very fond in private, gave convincing proofs of the truth of
her words.

"You don’t really think I am such a mercenary creature as
I tried to be once, do you? It would break my heart if you
didn’t believe that I’d gladly pull in the same boat with you,
even if you had to get your living by rowing on the lake."

"Am I an idiot and a brute? How could I think so, when
you refused a richer man for me, and won’t let me give you half
I want to now, when I have the right? Girls do it every day,
poor things, and are taught to think it is their only salvation,
but you had better lessons, and though I trembled for you at
one time, I was not disappointed, for the daughter was true to
the mother’s teaching. I told Mamma so yesterday, and she
looked as glad and grateful as if I’d given her a check for a
million, to be spent in charity. You are not listening to my
moral remarks, Mrs. Laurence," and Laurie paused, for Amy’s
eyes had an absent look, though fixed upon his face.

"Yes, I am, and admiring the mole in your chin at the
same time. I don’t wish to make you vain, but I must confess
that I’m prouder of my handsome husband than of all his money.
Don’t laugh, but your nose is such a comfort to me," and Amy
softly caressed the well-cut feature with artistic satisfaction.

Laurie had received many compliments in his life, but never
one that suited him better, as he plainly showed though he did
laugh at his wife’s peculiar taste, while she said slowly, "May
I ask you a question, dear?"

"Of course, you may."

"Shall you care if Jo does marry Mr. Bhaer?"

"Oh, that’s the trouble is it? I thought there was something
in the dimple that didn’t quite suit you. Not being a dog in the
manger, but the happiest fellow alive, I assure you I can dance
at Jo’s wedding with a heart as light as my heels. Do you doubt
it, my darling?"

Amy looked up at him, and was satisfied. Her little jealous
fear vanished forever, and she thanked him, with a face full of
love and confidence.

"I wish we could do something for that capital old Professor.
Couldn’t we invent a rich relation, who shall obligingly die out
there in Germany, and leave him a tidy little fortune?" said Laurie,
when they began to pace up and down the long drawing room, arm in
arm, as they were fond of doing, in memory of the chateau garden.

"Jo would find us out, and spoil it all. She is very proud
of him, just as he is, and said yesterday that she thought poverty
was a beautiful thing."

"Bless her dear heart! She won’t think so when she has a
literary husband, and a dozen little professors and professorins
to support. We won’t interfere now, but watch our chance, and
do them a good turn in spite of themselves. I owe Jo for a part
of my education, and she believes in people’s paying their honest
debts, so I’ll get round her in that way."

"How delightful it is to be able to help others, isn’t it?
That was always one of my dreams, to have the power of giving
freely, and thanks to you, the dream has come true."

"Ah, we’ll do quantities of good, won’t we? There’s one
sort of poverty that I particularly like to help. Out-and-out
beggars get taken care of, but poor gentle folks fare badly,
because they won’t ask, and people don’t dare to offer charity.
Yet there are a thousand ways of helping them, if one only
knows how to do it so delicately that it does not offend. I
must say, I like to serve a decayed gentleman better than a
blarnerying beggar. I suppose it’s wrong, but I do, though it
is harder."

"Because it takes a gentleman to do it," added the other
member of the domestic admiration society.

"Thank you, I’m afraid I don’t deserve that pretty compliment.
But I was going to say that while I was dawdling about abroad, I
saw a good many talented young fellows making all sorts of sacrifices,
and enduring real hardships, that they might realize their dreams.
Splendid fellows, some of them, working like heros, poor
and friendless, but so full of courage, patience, and ambition
that I was ashamed of myself, and longed to give them a right
good lift. Those are people whom it’s a satisfaction to help,
for if they’ve got genius, it’s an honor to be allowed to
serve them, and not let it be lost or delayed for want of fuel
to keep the pot boiling. If they haven’t, it’s a pleasure to
comfort the poor souls, and keep them from despair when they find
it out."

"Yes, indeed, and there’s another class who can’t ask, and
who suffer in silence. I know something of it, for I belonged to
it before you made a princess of me, as the king does the beggarmaid
in the old story. Ambitious girls have a hard time, Laurie,
and often have to see youth, health, and precious opportunities
go by, just for want of a little help at the right minute. People
have been very kind to me, and whenever I see girls struggling
along, as we used to do, I want to put out my hand and help them,
as I was helped."

"And so you shall, like an angel as you are!" cried Laurie,
resolving, with a glow of philanthropic zeal, to found and endow
an institution for the express benefit of young women with
artistic tendencies. "Rich people have no right to sit down
and enjoy themselves, or let their money accumulate for others
to waste. It’s not half so sensible to leave legacies when one
dies as it is to use the money wisely while alive, and enjoy
making one’s fellow creatures happy with it. We’ll have a good
time ourselves, and add an extra relish to our own pleasure by
giving other people a generous taste. Will you be a little
Dorcas, going about emptying a big basket of comforts, and
filling it up with good deeds?"

"With all my heart, if you will be a brave St. Martin,
stopping as you ride gallantly through the world to share your
cloak with the beggar."

"It’s a bargain, and we shall get the best of it!"

So the young pair shook hands upon it, and then paced
happily on again, feeling that their pleasant home was more
homelike because they hoped to brighten other homes, believing
that their own feet would walk more uprightly along the flowery
path before them, if they smoothed rough ways for other feet,
and feeling that their hearts were more closely knit together
by a love which could tenderly remember those less blest than they.

 

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