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Chapter 34 Friend

Though very happy in the social atmosphere about her, and very busy with the daily work that earned her bread and made it sweeter for the effort, Jo still found time for literary labors. The purpose which now took possession of her was a natural one to a poor and ambitious girl, but the means she took to gain her end were not the best. She saw that money conferred power, money and 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 everything she 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 been for years Jo's most cherished castle in the air.

The prize-story experience had seemed to open a way which might, after long traveling and much uphill work, lead to this delightful chateau en Espagne. But the novel disaster quenched her courage for a time, for public opinion is a giant which has frightened stouter-hearted Jacks on bigger beanstalks than hers. Like that immortal hero, she reposed awhile after the first attempt, which resulted in a tumble and the least lovely of the giant's treasures, if I remember rightly. But the 'up again and take another' spirit was as strong in Jo as in Jack, so she scrambled up on the shady side this time and got more booty, but nearly left behind her what was far more precious than the moneybags.

She took to writing sensation stories, for in those dark ages, even all-perfect America read rubbish. She told no one, but concocted a 'thrilling tale', and boldly carried it herself to Mr. Dashwood, editor of the Weekly Volcano. She had never read Sartor Resartus, but she had a womanly instinct that clothes possess an influence more powerful over many than the worth of character or the magic of manners. So she dressed herself in her best, and trying to persuade herself that she was neither excited nor nervous, bravely climbed two pairs of dark and dirty stairs to find herself in a disorderly room, 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 remove on her appearance. Somewhat daunted by this reception, Jo hesitated on 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 smokiest gentleman, and carefully cherishing his cigar between his fingers, he advanced with a nod and a countenance expressive of nothing but sleep. Feeling that she must get through the matter somehow, Jo produced her manuscript and, blushing redder and redder with each sentence, blundered out fragments of the little speech carefully prepared for the occasion.

"A friend of mine desired me to offer--a story--just as an experiment--would like your opinion--be glad to write more if this suits."

While she blushed and blundered, Mr. Dashwood had taken the manuscript, and was turning over the leaves with a pair of rather dirty fingers, and casting critical glances up and down the neat pages.

"Not a first attempt, I take it?" observing that the pages were numbered, covered only on one side, and not tied up with a ribbon--sure sign of a novice.

"No, sir. She has had some experience, and got a prize for 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 the bow in her bonnet to the buttons on her boots. "Well, you can leave it, if you like. We've more of this sort of thing on hand than we know what to do with at present, but I'll run my eye over it, and give you an answer next week."

Now, Jo did _not_ like to leave it, for Mr. Dashwood didn't suit her at all, but, under the circumstances, there was nothing for her to do but bow and walk away, looking particularly tall and dignified, as she was apt to do when nettled or abashed. Just then she was both, for it was perfectly evident from the knowing glances exchanged among the gentlemen that her little fiction of 'my friend' was considered a good joke, and a laugh, produced by some inaudible remark of the editor, as he closed the door, completed her discomfiture. Half resolving never to return, she went home, and worked off her irritation by stitching pinafores vigorously, and in an hour or two was cool enough to laugh over the scene and long for next week.

When she went again, Mr. Dashwood was alone, whereat she rejoiced. Mr. Dashwood was much wider awake than before, which was agreeable, and Mr. Dashwood was not too deeply absorbed in a cigar to remember his manners, so the second interview was much more comfortable than the first.

"We'll take this (editors never say I), if you don't object to a few alterations. It's too long, but omitting the 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 underscored were its pages and paragraphs, but feeling as a tender parent might on being asked to cut off her baby's legs in order that it might fit into a new cradle, she looked at the marked passages and was surprised to find that all the moral reflections--which she had carefully put in as ballast for much romance--had been stricken out.

"But, Sir, I thought every story should have some sort of a moral, so I took care to have a few of my sinners repent."

Mr. Dashwoods's editorial gravity relaxed into a smile, for Jo had forgotten her 'friend', and spoken as only an author could.

"People want to be amused, not preached at, you know. Morals don'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--language good, and so on," was Mr. Dashwood's affable reply.

"What do you--that is, what compensation--" began Jo, not exactly knowing how to express herself.

"Oh, yes, well, we give from twenty-five to thirty for things of this sort. Pay when it comes out," returned Mr. Dashwood, as if that point had escaped him. Such trifles do escape the editorial mind, it is said.

"Very well, you can have it," said Jo, handing back the story 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 one better than this?" asked Jo, unconscious of her little slip of the tongue, and emboldened by her success.

"Well, we'll look at it. Can't promise to take it. Tell her to make it short and spicy, and never mind the moral. What name would your friend like to put on it?" in a careless tone.

"None at all, if you please, she doesn't wish her name to appear and has no nom de plume," said Jo, blushing in spite of herself.

"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 graceful remark, "Poor and proud, as usual, but she'll do."

Following Mr. Dashwood's directions, and making Mrs. Northbury her model, Jo rashly took a plunge into the frothy sea of sensational literature, 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 characters and scenery, and banditti, counts, gypsies, nuns, and duchesses appeared upon her stage, and played their parts with as much accuracy and spirit as could be expected. Her readers were not particular about such trifles as grammar, punctuation, and probability, and Mr. Dashwood graciously permitted her to fill his columns at the lowest prices, not thinking it necessary to tell her that the real cause of his hospitality was the fact that one of his hacks, on being offered higher wages, had basely left him in the lurch.

She soon became interested in her work, for her emaciated purse grew stout, and the little hoard she was making to take Beth to the mountains next summer grew slowly but surely as the weeks passed. One thing disturbed her satisfaction, and that was that she did not tell them at home. She had a feeling that Father and Mother would not approve, and preferred to have her own way first, and beg pardon afterward. It was easy to keep her secret, for no name appeared with her stories. Mr. Dashwood had of course found it out very soon, but promised to be dumb, and for a wonder kept his word.

She thought it would do her no harm, for she sincerely meant to write nothing of which she would be ashamed, and quieted all pricks of conscience by anticipations of the happy minute when she should show her earnings and laugh over her well-kept secret.

But Mr. Dashwood rejected any but thrilling tales, and as thrills could not be produced except by harrowing up the souls of the readers, history and romance, land and sea, science and art, police records and lunatic asylums, had to be ransacked for the purpose. Jo soon found that her innocent experience had given her but few glimpses of the tragic world which underlies society, so regarding it in a business light, she set about supplying her deficiencies with characteristic energy. Eager to find material for stories, and bent on making them original in plot, if not masterly in execution, she searched newspapers for accidents, incidents, and crimes. She excited the suspicions of public librarians by asking for works on poisons. She studied faces in the street, and characters, good, bad, and indifferent, all about her. She delved in the dust of ancient times for facts or fictions so old that they were as good as new, and introduced herself to folly, sin, and misery, as well as her limited opportunities allowed. She thought she was prospering finely, but unconsciously she was beginning to desecrate some of the womanliest attributes of a woman's character. She was living in bad society, and imaginary though it was, its influence affected her, for she was feeding heart and fancy on dangerous and unsubstantial food, and was fast brushing the innocent bloom from her nature by a premature acquaintance with the darker side of life, which comes soon enough to all of us.

She was beginning to feel rather than see this, for much describing of other people's passions and feelings set her to studying and speculating about her own, a morbid amusement in which healthy young minds do not voluntarily indulge. Wrongdoing always brings its own punishment, and when Jo most needed hers, she got it.

I don't know whether the study of Shakespeare helped her to read character, or the natural instinct of a woman for what was honest, brave, and strong, but while endowing her imaginary heroes with every perfection under the sun, Jo was discovering a live hero, who interested her in spite of many human imperfections. Mr. Bhaer, in one of their conversations, had advised her to study simple, true, and lovely characters, wherever she found them, as good training for a writer. Jo took him at his word, for she coolly turned round and studied him--a proceeding which would have much surprised him, had he known it, for the worthy Professor was very humble in his own conceit.

Why everybody liked him was what puzzled Jo, at first. He was neither rich nor great, young nor handsome, in no respect what is called fascinating, imposing, or brilliant, and yet he was as attractive as a genial fire, and people seemed to gather about him as naturally as about a warm hearth. He was poor, yet always appeared to be giving something away; a stranger, yet everyone was his friend; no longer young, but as happy-hearted as a boy; plain and peculiar, yet his face looked beautiful to many, and his oddities were freely forgiven for his sake. Jo often watched him, trying to discover the charm, and at last decided that it was benevolence which worked the miracle. If he had any sorrow, 'it sat with its head under its wing', and he turned only his sunny side to the world. There were lines upon his forehead, but Time seemed to have touched him gently, remembering how kind he was to others. The pleasant curves about his mouth were the memorials of many friendly words and cheery laughs, his eyes were never cold or hard, and his big hand had a warm, strong grasp that was more expressive than words.

His very clothes seemed to partake of the hospitable nature of the wearer. They looked as if they were at ease, and liked to make him comfortable. His capacious waistcoat was suggestive of a large heart underneath. His rusty coat had a social air, and the baggy pockets plainly proved that little hands often went in empty and came out full. His very boots were benevolent, and his collars never stiff and raspy like other people's.

"That's it!" said Jo to herself, when she at length discovered that genuine good will toward one's fellow men could beautify and 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 most feminine respect for intellect, and a little discovery which she made about the Professor added much to her regard for him. He never spoke of himself, and no one ever knew that in his native city he had been a man much honored and esteemed for learning and integrity, till a countryman came to see him. He never spoke of himself, and in a conversation with Miss Norton divulged the pleasing fact. From her Jo learned it, and liked it all the better because Mr. Bhaer had never told it. She felt proud to know that he was an honored Professor in Berlin, though only a poor language-master in America, and his homely, hard-working life was much beautified by the spice of romance which this discovery gave it. Another and a better gift than intellect was shown her in a most unexpected manner. Miss Norton had the entree into most society, which Jo would have had no chance of seeing but for her. The solitary woman felt an interest in the ambitious girl, and kindly conferred many favors of this sort both on Jo and the Professor. She took them with her one night to a select symposium, held in honor of several celebrities.

Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the mighty ones whom she had worshiped with youthful enthusiasm afar off. But her reverence for genius received a severe shock that night, and it took her some time to recover from the discovery that the great creatures were only men and women after all. Imagine her dismay, on stealing a glance of timid admiration at the poet whose lines suggested an ethereal being fed on 'spirit, fire, and dew', to behold him devouring his supper with an ardor which flushed his intellectual countenance. Turning as from a fallen idol, she made other discoveries which rapidly dispelled her romantic illusions. The great novelist vibrated between two decanters with the regularity of a pendulum; the famous divine flirted openly with one of the Madame de Staels of the age, who looked daggers at another Corinne, who was amiably satirizing her, after outmaneuvering her in efforts to absorb the profound philosopher, who imbibed tea Johnsonianly and appeared to slumber, the loquacity of the lady rendering speech impossible. The scientific celebrities, forgetting their mollusks and glacial periods, gossiped about art, while devoting themselves to oysters and ices with characteristic energy; the young musician, who was charming the city like a second Orpheus, talked horses; and the specimen of the British nobility present happened to be the most ordinary man of the party.

Before the evening was half over, Jo felt so completely disillusioned, 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 his hobby, came ambling up to hold an intellectual tournament in the recess. The conversations were miles beyond Jo's comprehension, but she enjoyed it, though Kant and Hegel were unknown gods, the Subjective and Objective unintelligible terms, and the only thing 'evolved from her inner consciousness' was a bad headache after it was all over. It dawned upon her gradually that the world was being picked to pieces, and put together on new and, according to the talkers, on infinitely better principles than before, that religion was in a fair way to be reasoned into nothingness, and intellect was to be the only God. Jo knew nothing about philosophy or metaphysics of any sort, but a curious excitement, half pleasurable, half painful, came over her as she listened with a sense of being turned adrift into time and space, like a young balloon out on a holiday.

She looked round to see how the Professor liked it, and found him looking at her with the grimmest expression she had ever seen him wear. He shook his head and beckoned her to come away, but she was fascinated just then by the freedom of Speculative Philosophy, and kept her seat, trying to find out what the wise gentlemen intended to rely upon after they had annihilated all the old beliefs.

Now, Mr. Bhaer was a diffident man and slow to offer his own opinions, not because they were unsettled, but too sincere and earnest to be lightly spoken. As he glanced from Jo to several other young people, attracted by the brilliancy of the philosophic pyrotechnics, he knit his brows and longed to speak, fearing that some inflammable young soul would be led astray by the rockets, to find when the display was over that they had only an empty stick or a scorched hand.

He bore it as long as he could, but when he was appealed to for an opinion, he blazed up with honest indignation and defended religion with all the eloquence of truth--an eloquence which made his broken English musical and his plain face beautiful. He had a hard fight, for the wise men argued well, but he didn't know when he was beaten and stood to his colors like a man. Somehow, as he talked, the world got right again to Jo. The old beliefs, that had lasted so long, seemed better than the new. God was not a blind force, and immortality was not a pretty fable, but a blessed fact. She felt as if she had solid ground under her feet again, and when 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 gave the Professor her heartiest respect, for she knew it cost him an effort to speak out then and there, because his conscience would not let him be silent. She began to see that character is a better possession than money, rank, intellect, or beauty, and to feel that if greatness is what a wise man has defined it to be, 'truth, reverence, and good will', then her friend Friedrich 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 to losing everything. It all grew out of a cocked hat, for one evening the Professor came in to give Jo her lesson with a paper soldier cap on his head, which Tina had put there and he had forgotten to take off.

"It's evident he doesn't look in his glass before coming down," thought Jo, with a smile, as he said "Goot efening," and sat soberly down, quite unconscious of the ludicrous contrast between his subject and his headgear, for he was going to read her the Death of Wallenstein.

She said nothing at first, for she liked to hear him laugh out his big, hearty laugh when anything funny happened, so she left him to discover it for himself, and presently forgot all about it, for to hear a German read Schiller is rather an absorbing occupation. After the reading came the lesson, which was a lively one, for Jo was in a gay mood that night, and the cocked hat kept her eyes dancing with merriment. The Professor didn't know what to make of her, and stopped at last 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 take your hat off?" said Jo.

Lifting his hand to his head, the absent-minded Professor gravely felt and removed the little cocked hat, looked at it a minute, and then threw back his head and laughed like a merry bass viol.

"Ah! I see him now, it is that imp Tina who makes me a fool with my cap. Well, it is nothing, but see you, if this lesson goes not well, you too shall wear him."

But the lesson did not go at all for a few minutes because Mr. 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 illustration composed of a lunatic, a corpse, a villain, and a viper. She did not like it, but the impulse that made her turn it over was not one of displeasure but fear, because for a minute she fancied the paper was the Volcano. It was not, however, and her panic subsided as she remembered that even if it had been and one of her own tales in it, there would have been no name to betray her. She had betrayed herself, however, by a look and a blush, for though an absent man, the Professor saw a good deal more than people fancied. He knew that Jo wrote, and had met her down among the newspaper offices more than once, but as she never spoke of it, he asked no questions in spite of a strong desire to see her work. Now it occurred to him that she was doing what she was ashamed to own, and it troubled him. He did not say to himself, "It is none of my business. I've no right to say anything," as many people would have done. He only remembered that she was young and poor, a girl far away from mother's love and father's care, and he was moved to help her with an impulse as quick and natural as that which would prompt him to put out his hand to save a baby from a puddle. All this flashed through his mind in a minute, but not a trace of it appeared in his face, and by the time the paper was turned, and Jo's needle threaded, he was ready to say quite naturally, but very gravely . . .

"Yes, you are right to put it from you. I do not think that good young girls should see such things. They are made pleasant to some, but I would more rather give my boys gunpowder to play with than this bad trash."

"All may not be bad, only silly, you know, and if there is a demand for it, I don't see any harm in supplying it. Many very respectable people make an honest living out of what are called sensation stories," said Jo, scratching gathers so energetically that a row of little slits followed her pin.

"There is a demand for whisky, but I think you and I do not care to sell it. If the respectable people knew what harm they did, they would not feel that the living was honest. They haf no right to put poison in the sugarplum, and let the small ones eat it. No, they should think a little, and sweep mud in the street before they do this thing."

Mr. Bhaer spoke warmly, and walked to the fire, crumpling the paper in his hands. Jo sat still, looking as if the fire had come to her, for her cheeks burned long after the cocked hat had turned to smoke and gone harmlessly up the chimney.

"I should like much to send all the rest after him," muttered the Professor, coming back with a relieved air.

Jo thought what a blaze her pile of papers upstairs would make, and her hard-earned money lay rather heavily on her conscience at 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 very good and proper now."

"I shall hope so," was all he said, but he meant more than she imagined, and the grave, kind look he gave her made her feel as if the words Weekly Volcano were printed in large type 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 little shortsighted, Mr. Bhaer sometimes used eye glasses, and Jo had tried them once, smiling to see how they magnified the fine print of her book. Now she seemed to have on the Professor's mental or moral spectacles also, for the faults of these poor stories glared at her dreadfully and filled her with dismay.

"They are trash, and will soon be worse trash if I go on, for each is more sensational than the last. I've gone blindly on, hurting myself and other people, for the sake of money. I know it's so, for I can't read this stuff in sober earnest without being horribly ashamed of it, and what should I 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 bundle into 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 other people blow themselves up with my gunpowder," she thought as she watched the Demon of the Jura whisk away, a little black cinder with fiery eyes.

But when nothing remained of all her three month's work except a heap of ashes and the money in her lap, Jo looked sober, as she sat on the floor, wondering what she ought to do about her wages.

"I think I haven't done much harm yet, and may keep this to pay for my time," she said, after a long meditation, adding impatiently, "I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's so inconvenient. If I didn't care about doing right, and didn't feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally. I can't help wishing sometimes, that Mother and Father hadn't been so particular about such things."

Ah, Jo, instead of wishing that, thank God that 'Father and Mother were particular', and pity from your heart those who have no such guardians to hedge them round with principles which may seem like prison walls to impatient youth, but which will prove sure foundations to build character upon in womanhood.

Jo wrote no more sensational stories, deciding that the money did not pay for her share of the sensation, but going to the other extreme, as is the way with people of her stamp, she took a course of Mrs. Sherwood, Miss Edgeworth, and Hannah More, and then produced a tale which might have been more properly called an essay or a sermon, so intensely moral was it. She had her doubts about it from the beginning, for her lively fancy and girlish romance felt as ill at ease in the new style as she would have done masquerading in the stiff and cumbrous costume of the last century. She sent this didactic gem to several markets, but it found no purchaser, and she was inclined to agree with Mr. Dashwood that morals didn't sell.

Then she tried a child's story, which she could easily have disposed of if she had not been mercenary enough to demand filthy lucre for it. The only person who offered enough to make it worth her while to try juvenile literature was a worthy gentleman who felt it his mission to convert all the world to his particular belief. But much as she liked to write for children, Jo could not consent to depict all her naughty boys as being eaten by bears or tossed by mad bulls because they did not go to a particular Sabbath school, nor all the good infants who did go as rewarded by every kind of bliss, from gilded gingerbread to escorts of angels when they departed this life with psalms or sermons on their lisping tongues. So nothing came of these trials, and Jo corked up her inkstand, and said in a fit of very wholesome humility . . .

"I don't know anything. I'll wait until I do before I try again, and meantime, 'sweep mud in the street' if I can't do better, that's honest, at least." Which decision proved that her second tumble down the beanstalk had done her some good.

While these internal revolutions were going on, her external life had been as busy and uneventful as usual, and if she sometimes looked serious or a little sad no one observed it but Professor Bhaer. He did it so quietly that Jo never knew he was watching to see if she would accept and profit by his reproof, but she stood the test, and he was satisfied, for though no words passed between them, he knew that she had given up writing. Not only did he guess it by the fact that the second finger of her right hand was no longer inky, but she spent her evenings downstairs now, was met no more among newspaper offices, and studied with a dogged patience, which assured him that she was bent on occupying her mind with something 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 learning other lessons besides German, and laying a foundation for the sensation story of her own life.

It was a pleasant winter and a long one, for she did not leave Mrs. Kirke till June. Everyone seemed sorry when the time came. The children were inconsolable, and Mr. Bhaer's hair stuck straight up all over his head, for he always rumpled it wildly when disturbed in mind.

"Going home? Ah, you are happy that you haf a home to go in," he said, when she told him, and sat silently pulling his beard in the corner, while she held a little levee on that last evening.

She was going early, so she bade them all goodbye overnight, and when his turn came, she said warmly, "Now, Sir, you won't forget 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 my friend."

"Do you? Shall I come?" he asked, looking down at her with an eager expression which she did not see.

"Yes, come next month. Laurie graduates then, and you'd enjoy commencement as something new."

"That is your best friend, of whom you speak?" he said in an altered tone.

"Yes, my boy Teddy. I'm very proud of him and should like you to see him."

Jo looked up then, quite unconscious of anything but her own pleasure in the prospect of showing them to one another. Something in Mr. Bhaer's face suddenly recalled the fact that she might find Laurie more than a 'best friend', and simply because she particularly wished not to look as if anything was the matter, she involuntarily began to blush, and the more she tried not to, the redder she grew. If it had not been for Tina on her knee. She didn't know what would have become of her. Fortunately the child was moved to hug her, so she managed to hide her face an instant, hoping the Professor did not see it. But he did, and his own changed again from that momentary anxiety to its usual expression, as he said cordially . . .

"I fear I shall not make the time for that, but I wish the friend much 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 fire with the tired look on his face and the 'heimweh', or homesickness, lying heavy at his heart. Once, when he remembered Jo as she sat with the little child in her lap and that new softness in her face, he leaned his head on his hands a minute, and then roamed about the room, as if in search of something that 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 reproaching himself for the longing that he could not repress, he went and kissed the two tousled heads upon the pillow, took down his seldom-used meerschaum, and opened his Plato.

He did his best and did it manfully, but I don't think he found that 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 see Jo off, and thanks to him, she began her solitary journey with the pleasant memory of a familiar face smiling its farewell, a bunch of violets to keep her company, and best of all, the happy thought, "Well, the winter's gone, and I've written no books, earned no fortune, but I've made a friend worth having and I'll try to keep him all my life."

 

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。

乔梦想为家里添置许多使生活舒适的用品。贝思想要什么就给她什么,从冬天吃的草莓到卧室里的风琴。自己出国,钱总是绰绰有余,便能够享受大做善事的乐趣。这些是乔多年来最珍视的空中楼阁。

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。

“我的一个朋友要我来交—-一个故事--只是作为一个试验--希望听听您的意见--如果这个合适,乐意多写一些。”乔红着脸笨拙地说着,达什伍德先生接过手稿,用两个相当脏的手指翻着纸页,目光挑剔地上下扫视着干净的手稿。

“我看,是第一次?”他注意到页数用号码标了,只写了一面,没有丝带扎起来 -确实是新手的迹象。

“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。

她再一次去那里的时候,只有达什伍德先生一人在,这使她高兴。达什伍德先生比上一次清醒多了,也给人愉悦之感。回忆其他上次的行为举止,这次他不再没命地抽烟了。所以第二次会见要比第一次让人舒服得多。

“要是你不反对把你的手稿作些改动,我们就采用了(编辑们从来不说我字)。这个太长了,去掉我做了记号的那些段落,长度就正合适,”他以事务性的语调说。

乔几乎认不出她的手稿了,稿纸被揉得皱巴巴,许多段落都给划上了线。她感觉如同一个慈善的母亲被人要求砍断她孩子的双脚以便能放进新摇篮。她看着做了记号的段落,吃惊地发现所有反映道德的部分--她挖空心思加进这些让它们在许多浪漫事件中起支撑作用- 都被划掉了。

“可是,先生,我认为每一个故事里都应该有某种道德成份,所以我设法让我故事里一些有罪的人悔过。”达什伍德先生编辑式的严肃神情放松了,他笑了起来,因为乔忘记了她的"朋友",俨然以作者的口气在说话。

“人们想得到乐趣,不想听说教,你知道,现在道德没销路。”顺便说一句,这话不太正确。

“那你认为这样变动后就能用了?”

“是的,情节有新意,故事展开得也很好--语言不错,还有其他的,”达什伍德先生和蔼地回答。

“你们怎样--我是说,怎样的报酬- "乔开口说,她不知道怎样准确表达自己的意思。”噢,是的,这样,这种东西我们付二十五至三十美元,一经刊登,即付稿酬,”达什伍德先生回答,仿佛他已忘记了这一点。据说这类小事编辑们常常会忘记的。

“很好,就给你们用。”乔神情满意地把故事交还给了他。

以前登一栏故事才一美元,这二十五美元的报酬似乎不错。

“我能不能告诉我的朋友,假如她有更好的故事,你们愿意接受?”她问道。成功使乔的胆子大了起来,她没有意识到前面她说漏了嘴。

“唔,我们会考虑的,但是不能保证接受。告诉你的朋友,故事要写得有趣味,别去管那道德。你的朋友想在这一起署什么名字?”他的语调漫不经心。

“请你什么名字也不署,她不愿她的名字出现,她也没有笔名,”乔说,她情不自禁地脸红了。

“当然随她的便。故事下个星期就登出来。你是自己来拿钱,还是我来寄给你?“达什伍德先生问,他自然想知道他的新供稿人是谁。

“我来拿,再见,先生。”

乔离开了,达什伍德先生跷起了脚,得体地评论道:“老一套,又穷又傲。不过她能行。”乔按照达什伍德先生的指示,以诺思布里太太作原型,一头扎进了浅薄的通俗文学之海。然而,多亏一个朋友扔给了她救生衣,她才能重新冒出头来,没为这次落水所窒息。

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。

她想这样做对她没有什么害处,她真诚地打算,绝不去写那些使她感到羞耻的东西。她期待着那幸福的时刻,到那时她拿给家人看她的钱,拿这个守得很严的秘密换取家人的快乐,这样,她也就抵销了良心的责备。

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。

她身处不良社会,虽然那是想象中的,但对她产生了影响,因为她的心灵和想象都在汲取着危险的、不正常的养分。她过早地熟悉了生活的阴暗面,很快将她性情中天真无邪的青春光彩一扫而光。当然,我们每个人不久都会面对生活阴暗面的。

她开始感觉到了这一切,这不是看出来的,因为,过多地描述别人的激情与感情,使她研究、思索起自己的感情来 -一种病态的乐趣,心理健康的年轻人是不会沉缅于这种乐趣中的。做错事总会带来惩罚,而当乔最需要这种惩罚时,她得到了。

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。

他穿的衣服似乎也带有穿衣者好客的特性。衣服看上去宽宽松松,好像想使他舒适。宽大的背心暗示着里面有一颗硕大的心脏。褪了色的外套带着爱交际的神气。松驰下垂的口袋显然证明了有些小手空着插进去,满着拿出来。他的靴子使人感到亲切,他的领子不像其他人的那样坚硬、挺括。

“就是这样!”乔自言自语。她终于发现,真心地对同胞抱有善良的愿望能使人变美,给人尊严。这个强壮的德国教师就是如此。他大口吃饭,自己缝补短袜,还承受着巴尔这么个名字。

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。

巴尔身上还有一种比智力更优秀的才能,这种才能以一种最出人意料的方式展示给了乔。诺顿小姐能够随意出入文学圈,要不是她,乔不可能有机会见识的。这个寂寞的女人对心怀抱负的女孩产生了兴趣,她将许多这样的恩惠赐予乔,同时也赐予了教授。一天晚上,她带他们去参加一个为一些著名人士举办的特别酒会。

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。

她转过头来看看教授是否欣赏,发现他正表情异常严肃地看着她。她从未见过他的这种表情。他招手要她离开,可是就在那时,她被思辩哲学的自由性吸引了,就坐着没动。她想知道那些聪明的先生们消灭了所有的老信仰之后,打算依赖什么。

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。

这种信念日渐坚定。她看重他的评价。她妄想得到他的尊重。她希望自己能配得上做他的朋友。她的愿望非常真挚,可就在这时,她几乎失去了一切。这事起因于一顶三角帽。一个晚上,教授进屋来给乔上课,头上戴着顶纸做的士兵帽,是蒂娜放上去的,他忘了拿下来。

“显然,他下楼前没照镜子,”在她说"晚上好"时,乔笑着想道。他严肃地坐下来,压根儿没注意到他的主题和头饰之间让人发笑的对照。他打算给她读《华伦斯坦之死》。

开始她什么也没说,因为发生了好笑的事,她喜欢听他开怀大笑,所以她留待他自己发现,一会儿就把这事给忘了。

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。

心不在焉的教授严肃地抬起手在头上摸着,取下了那个小三角帽,看了它一分钟,然后快活地仰头大笑,笑声像是大提琴发出的声音。

“噢,我看到帽子了,是那个小淘气蒂娜干的,让我成了个傻瓜。好吧,没关系,你瞧,要是你今天功课学得不好,你也要戴这帽子。”可是功课停了一会儿,因为教授一眼看到帽子上有幅画。

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。

“我倒想把所有的报纸都这样烧掉,”教授咕哝着,带着宽慰的神情从火边走了回来。

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。

她一回到自己屋子,便拿出了报纸,仔细地重新阅读了她写的每一篇故事。巴尔先生有点近视,有时戴眼镜。乔曾经试着戴过它,笑着看到它能把书中的小字放大。现在,她仿佛也戴上了教授的眼镜,不过这眼镜是精神上的或道德上的,因为那些粗劣的故事中的瑕疵令人可怕地怒视着她,使她充满沮丧。

“它们是破烂货,要是我继续写下去,会变得比破烂货还要糟糕,因为我每写一个故事,都比前一个更耸人听闻。我盲目地为钱写下去,伤害了自己,也伤害了别人。我知道就是这样的,因为我没法严肃认真地读这些而不感到羞愧难当。

要是家人读到了这些,要是巴尔先生得到了这些,我该怎么呢?”仅仅想到这一点,乔的脸又发烫了。她把整整一捆报纸投进了火炉,火光熊熊差点把烟囱燃着了。

“是的,这是那种易燃的废品的最好去处。我想,我宁愿把房子烧了,也不愿别人用我的火药炸毁自己。”她一边想着一边注视着《法律之魔》突然消失,它已变成眼睛闪闪发光的一堆黑色灰烬。

三个月的工作化成了一堆灰烬和放在膝盖上的钱。这时,乔严肃起来。她坐在地上,考虑着该用这钱做些什么。

“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。

“要回家了?噢,你很幸福,有家可回,”行前的最后一个晚上她见到他把回家这件事告诉他的时候,他这样说。他坐在屋子角落里抚弄着胡子。

她很早就得动身,所以头天晚上就和所有的人道别。轮到他时,她热情地说:“嗯,先生,别忘了,要是路过我那里,希望你来看我们,好吗?你来,我肯定不会忘记你的,我想让全家人都认识我的朋友。”“真的,你要我去吗?”他问。他带着乔从未看过的急切神情看着她。

“是的,下个月来吧,劳里那时毕业,你会把毕业典礼当作趣事来欣赏的。”“你说的那个人是你最要好的朋友?”他的语气变了。

“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。

然而,孩子们上床后,巴尔在火炉边坐了很长时间。他面带倦容。”heimweh",也就是思乡之情,重重地压在他的心头。他回忆起乔坐在那里,小孩子抱在膝盖上,脸上带着柔和的表情,不由双手托起了头。过了一会儿,他在屋子里踱起步来,仿佛在寻找一些他无法找到的东西。

“那不是我的,我现在不应该心存希望了。”他自言自语地叹着,那叹息几乎是呻吟。然后,像是责备自己无法遏制的渴求,他走过去亲了亲枕头上两个头发散乱的小脑袋,拿下他那很少使用的海泡石烟斗,打开了他的柏拉图。

他尽了自己的最大努力,事情处理得很有



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