"We do. Write something for us, and never mind the rest of the world. Try it, dear. I'm sure it would do you good, and please us very much."
"Don't believe I can." But Jo got out her desk and began to overhaul her half-finished manuscripts.
An hour afterward her mother peeped in and there she was, scratching away, with her black pinafore on, and an absorbed expression, which caused Mrs. March to smile and slip away, well pleased with the success of her suggestion. Jo never knew how it happened, but something got into that story that went straight to the hearts of those who read it, for when her family had laughed and cried over it, her father sent it, much against her will, to one of the popular magazines, and to her utter surprise, it was not only paid for, but others requested. Letters from several persons, whose praise was honor, followed the appearance of the little story, newspapers copied it, and strangers as well as friends, admired it. For a small thing it was a great success, and Jo was more astonished than when her novel was commended and condemned all at once.
"I don't understand it. What can there be in a simple little story like that to make people praise it so?" she said, quite bewildered.
"There is truth in it, Jo, that's the secret. Humor and pathos make it alive, and you have found your style at last. You wrote with not thoughts of fame and money, and put your heart into it, my daughter. You have had the bitter, now comes the sweet. Do your best, and grow as happy as we are in your success."
"If there is anything good or true in what I write, it isn't mine. I owe it all to you and Mother and Beth," said Jo, more touched by her father's words than by any amount of praise from the world.
So taught by love and sorrow, Jo wrote her little stories, and sent them away to make friends for themselves and her, finding it a very charitable world to such humble wanderers, for they were kindly welcomed, and sent home comfortable tokens to their mother, like dutiful children whom good fortune overtakes.
When Amy and Laurie wrote of their engagement, Mrs. March feared that Jo would find it difficult to rejoice over it, but her fears were soon set at rest, for thought Jo looked grave at first, she took it very quietly, and was full of hopes and plans for `the children' before she read the letter twice. It was a sort of written duet, wherein each glorified the other in lover-like fashion, very pleasant to read and satisfactory to think of, for no one had any objection to make.
"You like it, Mother?" said Jo, as they laid down the closely written sheets and looked at one another.
"Yes, I hoped it would be so, ever since Amy wrote that she had refused Fred. I felt sure then that something better than what you call the `mercenary spirit' had come over her, and a hint here and there in her letters made me suspect that love and Laurie would win the day."
"How sharp you are, Marmee, and how silent! You never said a worked to me."
"Mothers have need of sharp eyes and discreet tongues when they have girls to manage. I was half afraid to put the idea into your head, lest you should write and congratulate them before the thing was settled."
"I'm not the scatterbrain I was. You may trust me. I'm sober and sensible enough for anyone's confidante now."
"So you are, my dear, and I should have made you mine, only I fancied it might pain you to learn that your Teddy loved someone else."
"Now, Mother, did you really think I could be so silly and selfish, after I'd refused his love, when it was freshest, if not best?"
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