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, 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 château 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.
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.