Little Women HTML version

Jo was alone in the twilight, lying on the old sofa, looking at the fire, and thinking. It was
her favorite way of spending the hour of dusk. No one disturbed her, and she used to lie
there on Beth's little red pillow, planning stories, dreaming dreams, or thinking tender
thoughts of the sister who never seemed far away. Her face looked tired, grave, and rather
sad, for tomorrow was her birthday, and she was thinking how fast the years went by,
how old she was getting, and how little she seemed to have accomplished. Almost
twenty-five, and nothing to show for it. Jo was mistaken in that. There was a good deal to
show, and by-and-by she saw, and was grateful for it.
"An old maid, that's what I'm to be. A literary spinster, with a pen for a spouse, a family
of stories for children, and twenty years hence a morsel of fame, perhaps, when, like poor
Johnson, I'm old and can't enjoy it, solitary, and can't share it, independent, and don't
need it. Well, I needn't be a sour saint nor a selfish sinner, and, I dare say, old maids are
very comfortable when they get used to it, but..." And there Jo sighed, as if the prospect
was not inviting.
It seldom is, at first, and thirty seems the end of all things to five-and-twenty. But it's not
as bad as it looks, and one can get on quite happily if one has something in one's self to
fall back upon. At twenty-five, girls begin to talk about being old maids, but secretly
resolve that they never will be. At thirty they say nothing about it, but quietly accept the
fact, and if sensible, console themselves by remembering that they have twenty more
useful, happy years, in which they may be learning to grow old gracefully. Don't laugh at
the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragic romances are hidden away in the
hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns, and many silent sacrifices of youth,
health, ambition, love itself, make the faded faces beautiful in God's sight. Even the sad,
sour sisters should be kindly dealt with, because they have missed the sweetest part of
life, if for no other reason. And looking at them with compassion, not contempt, girls in
their bloom should remember that they too may miss the blossom time. That rosy cheeks
don't last forever, that silver threads will come in the bonnie brown hair, and that, by-and-
by, kindness and respect will be as sweet as love and admiration now.
Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and
plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to pay
deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or
color. Just recollect the good aunts who have not only lectured and fussed, but nursed and
petted, too often without thanks, the scrapes they have helped you out of, the tips they
have given you from their small store, the stitches the patient old fingers have set for you,
the steps the willing old feet have taken, and gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little
attentions that women love to receive as long as they live. The bright-eyed girls are quick
to see such traits, and will like you all the better for them, and if death, almost the only
power that can part mother and son, should rob you of yours, you will be sure to find a
tender welcome and maternal cherishing from some Aunt Priscilla, who has kept the
warmest corner of her lonely old heart for `the best nevvy in the world'.
Jo must have fallen asleep (as I dare say my reader has during this little homily), for
suddenly Laurie's ghost seemed to stand before her, a substantial, lifelike ghost, leaning
over her with the very look he used to wear when he felt a good deal and didn't like to
show it. But, like Jenny in the ballad...