Rose In Bloom: A Sequel To Eight Cousins – Louisa May Alcott
‘Rose in Bloom’ is the sequel to ‘Eight Cousins’, one of many successful books by Louisa May Alcott. It continues Rose’s story into young adulthood, depicting courtship and marriage, poverty and charity, transcendental poetry and prose, as well as illness and death among her family and friends.
Rose In Bloom: A Sequel To Eight Cousins.
Excerpt from the text:
Three young men stood together on a wharf one bright October day, awaiting the arrival of an ocean steamer with an impatience which found a vent in lively skirmishes with a small lad, who pervaded the premises like a will-o’-the-wisp, and afforded much amusement to the other groups assembled there.
“They are the Campbells, waiting for their cousin, who has been abroad several years with her uncle, the Doctor,” whispered one lady to another, as the handsomest of the young men touched his hat to her as he passed, lugging the boy, whom he had just rescued from a little expedition down among the piles.
“Which is that?” asked the stranger.
“Prince Charlie, as he’s called,—a fine fellow, the most promising of the seven; but a little fast, people say,” answered the first speaker, with a shake of the head.
“Are the others his brothers?”
“No, cousins. The elder is Archie, a most exemplary young man. He has just gone into business with the merchant uncle, and bids fair to be an honor to his family. The other, with the eye-glasses and no gloves, is Mac, the odd one, just out of college.”
“And the boy?”
“Oh, he is Jamie, the youngest brother of Archibald, and the pet of the whole family. Mercy on us! he’ll be in if they don’t hold on to him.”
The ladies’ chat came to a sudden end just there; for, by the time Jamie had been fished out of a hogshead, the steamer hove in sight and every thing else was forgotten. As it swung slowly round to enter the dock, a boyish voice shouted,—
“There she is! I see her and uncle and Phebe! Hooray for Cousin Rose!” and three small cheers were given with a will by Jamie, as he stood on a post waving his arms like a windmill, while his brother held on to the tail of his jacket.
Yes, there they were,—Uncle Alec swinging his hat like a boy, with Phebe smiling and nodding on one side, and Rose kissing both hands delightedly on the other, as she recognized familiar faces and heard familiar voices welcoming her home.
“Bless her dear heart, she’s bonnier than ever! Looks like a Madonna,—doesn’t she?—with that blue cloak round her, and her bright hair flying in the wind!” said Charlie excitedly, as they watched the group upon the deck with eager eyes.
“Madonnas don’t wear hats like that. Rose hasn’t changed much, but Phebe has. Why, she’s a regular beauty!” answered Archie, staring with all his might at the dark-eyed young woman, with the brilliant color and glossy, black braids shining in the sun.
“Dear old uncle! doesn’t it seem good to have him back?” was all Mac said; but he was not looking at “dear old uncle,” as he made the fervent remark, for he saw only the slender blonde girl near by, and stretched out his hands to meet hers, forgetful of the green water tumbling between them.
During the confusion that reigned for a moment as the steamer settled to her moorings, Rose looked down into the three faces upturned to hers, and seemed to read in them something that both pleased and pained her. It was only a glance, and her own eyes were full; but through the mist of happy tears she received the impression that Archie was about the same, that Mac had decidedly improved, and that something was amiss with Charlie. There was no time for observation, however; for in a moment the shoreward rush began, and, before she could grasp her travelling bag, Jamie was clinging to her like an ecstatic young bear. She was with difficulty released from his embrace, to fall into the gentler ones of the elder cousins, who took advantage of the general excitement to welcome both blooming girls with affectionate impartiality. Then the wanderers were borne ashore in a triumphal procession, while Jamie danced rapturous jigs before them even on the gangway.
Archie remained to help his uncle get the luggage through the Custom House, and the others escorted the damsels home. No sooner were they shut up in a carriage, however, than a new and curious constraint seemed to fall upon the young people; for they realized, all at once, that their former playmates were men and women now. Fortunately, Jamie was quite free from this feeling of restraint, and, sitting bodkin-wise between the ladies, took all sorts of liberties with them and their belongings.
“Well, my mannikin, what do you think of us?” asked Rose, to break an awkward pause.
“You’ve both grown so pretty, I can’t decide which I like best. Phebe is the biggest and brightest looking, and I was always fond of Phebe; but, somehow you are so kind of sweet and precious, I really think I must hug you again,” and the small youth did it tempestuously.
“If you love me best, I shall not mind a bit about your thinking Phebe the handsomest, because she is. Isn’t she, boys?” asked Rose, with a mischievous look at the gentlemen opposite, whose faces expressed a respectful admiration which much amused her.
“I’m so dazzled by the brilliancy and beauty that has suddenly burst upon me, I have no words to express my emotions,” answered Charlie, gallantly dodging the dangerous question.
“I can’t say yet, for I have not had time to look at any one. I will now, if you don’t mind;” and, to the great amusement of the rest, Mac gravely adjusted his eye-glasses and took an observation.
“Well?” said Phebe, smiling and blushing under his honest stare, yet seeming not to resent it as she did the lordly sort of approval which made her answer the glance of Charlie’s audacious blue eyes with a flash of her black ones.
“I think if you were my sister, I should be very proud of you, because your face shows what I admire more than its beauty,—truth and courage, Phebe,” answered Mac, with a little bow, full of such genuine respect that surprise and pleasure brought a sudden dew to quench the fire of the girl’s eyes, and soothe the sensitive pride of the girl’s heart.
Rose clapped her hands just as she used to do when any thing delighted her, and beamed at Mac approvingly, as she said,—
“Now that’s a criticism worth having, and we are much obliged. I was sure you’d admire my Phebe when you knew her: but I didn’t believe you would be wise enough to see it at once; and you have gone up many pegs in my estimation, I assure you.”
“I was always fond of mineralogy you remember, and I’ve been tapping round a good deal lately, so I’ve learned to know precious metals when I see them,” Mac said with his shrewd smile.
“That is the last hobby, then? Your letters have amused us immensely; for each one had a new theory or experiment, and the latest was always the best. I thought uncle would have died of laughing over the vegetarian mania: it was so funny to imagine you living on bread and milk, baked apples, and potatoes roasted in your own fire,” continued Rose, changing the subject again.
“This old chap was the laughing-stock of his class. They called him Don Quixote; and the way he went at windmills of all sorts was a sight to see,” put in Charlie, evidently feeling that Mac had been patted on the head quite as much as was good for him.
“But in spite of that the Don got through college with all the honors. Oh, wasn’t I proud when Aunt Jane wrote us about it! and didn’t she rejoice that her boy kept at the head of his class, and won the medal!” cried Rose, shaking Mac by both hands in a way that caused Charlie to wish “the old chap” had been left behind with Dr. Alec.
“Oh come, that’s all mother’s nonsense. I began earlier than the other fellows and liked it better: so I don’t deserve any praise. Prince is right, though: I did make a regular jack of myself; but, on the whole, I’m not sure that my wild oats weren’t better than some I’ve seen sowed. Anyway, they didn’t cost much, and I’m none the worse for them,” said Mac, placidly.
“I know what ‘wild oats’ mean. I heard Uncle Mac say Charlie was sowing ’em too fast, and I asked mamma, so she told me. And I know that he was suspelled or expended, I don’t remember which, but it was something bad, and Aunt Clara cried,” added Jamie, all in one breath; for he possessed a fatal gift of making malapropos remarks, which caused him to be a terror to his family.
“Do you want to go on the box again?” demanded Prince, with a warning frown.
“No, I don’t.”
“Then hold your tongue.”
“Well, Mac needn’t kick me; for I was only”—began the culprit, innocently trying to make a bad matter worse.
“That will do,” interrupted Charlie, sternly, and James subsided a crushed boy, consoling himself with Rose’s new watch for the indignities he suffered at the hands of the “old fellows,” as he vengefully called his elders.
Mac and Charlie immediately began to talk as hard as their tongues could wag, bringing up all sorts of pleasant subjects so successfully that peals of laughter made passers-by look after the merry load with sympathetic smiles.
An avalanche of aunts fell upon Rose as soon as she reached home, and for the rest of the day the old house buzzed like a beehive. Evening found the whole tribe collected in the drawing-rooms, with the exception of Aunt Peace, whose place was empty now.
Naturally enough, the elders settled into one group after a while, and the young fellows clustered about the girls, like butterflies round two attractive flowers. Dr. Alec was the central figure in one room and Rose in the other; for the little girl, whom they had all loved and petted, had bloomed into a woman; and two years of absence had wrought a curious change in the relative positions of the cousins, especially the three elder ones, who eyed her with a mixture of boyish affection and manly admiration that was both new and pleasant.
Something sweet yet spirited about her charmed them and piqued their curiosity; for she was not quite like other girls, and rather startled them now and then by some independent little speech or act, which made them look at one another with a sly smile, as if reminded that Rose was “uncle’s girl.”
Let us listen, as in duty bound, to what the elders are saying first; for they are already building castles in the air for the boys and girls to inhabit.
“Dear child! how nice it is to see her safely back, so well and happy and like her sweet little self!” said Aunt Plenty, folding her hands as if giving thanks for a great happiness.
“I shouldn’t wonder if you found that you’d brought a firebrand into the family, Alec. Two, in fact; for Phebe is a fine girl, and the lads have found it out already, if I’m not mistaken,” added Uncle Mac, with a nod toward the other room.
All eyes followed his, and a highly suggestive tableau presented itself to the paternal and maternal audience in the back parlor.
Rose and Phebe, sitting side by side on the sofa, had evidently assumed at once the places which they were destined to fill by right of youth, sex, and beauty; for Phebe had long since ceased to be the maid and become the friend, and Rose meant to have that fact established at once.
Jamie occupied the rug, on which Will and Geordie stood at ease, showing their uniforms to the best advantage; for they were now in a great school, where military drill was the delight of their souls. Steve posed gracefully in an arm-chair, with Mac lounging over the back of it; while Archie leaned on one corner of the low chimney-piece, looking down at Phebe as she listened to his chat with smiling lips, and cheeks almost as rich in color as the carnations in her belt.
But Charlie was particularly effective, although he sat upon a music-stool, that most trying position for any man not gifted with grace in the management of his legs. Fortunately Prince was, and had fallen into an easy attitude, with one arm over the back of the sofa, his handsome head bent a little, as he monopolized Rose, with a devoted air and a very becoming expression of contentment on his face.
Aunt Clara smiled as if well pleased; Aunt Jessie looked thoughtful; Aunt Jane’s keen eyes went from dapper Steve to broad-shouldered Mac with an anxious glance; Mrs. Myra murmured something about her “blessed Caroline;” and Aunt Plenty said warmly,—
“Bless the dears! any one might be proud of such a bonny flock of bairns as that.”
“I am all ready to play chaperon as soon as you please, Alec; for I suppose the dear girl will come out at once, as she did not before you went away. My services won’t be wanted long, I fancy; for with her many advantages she will be carried off in her first season or I’m much mistaken,” said Mrs. Clara, with significant nods and smiles.
“You must settle all those matters with Rose: I am no longer captain, only first mate now, you know,” answered Dr. Alec, adding soberly, half to himself, half to his brother,—”I wonder people are in such haste to ‘bring out’ their daughters, as it’s called. To me there is something almost pathetic in the sight of a young girl standing on the threshold of the world, so innocent and hopeful, so ignorant of all that lies before her, and usually so ill prepared to meet the ups and downs of life. We do our duty better by the boys; but the poor little women are seldom provided with any armor worth having; and, sooner or later, they are sure to need it, for every one must fight her own battle, and only the brave and strong can win.”
“You can’t reproach yourself with neglect of that sort, Alec, for you have done your duty faithfully by George’s girl; and I envy you the pride and happiness of having such a daughter, for she is that to you,” answered old Mac, unexpectedly betraying the paternal sort of tenderness men seldom feel for their sons.
“I’ve tried, Mac, and I am both proud and happy; but with every year my anxiety seems to increase. I’ve done my best to fit Rose for what may come, as far as I can foresee it; but now she must stand alone, and all my care is powerless to keep her heart from aching, her life from being saddened by mistakes, or thwarted by the acts of others. I can only stand by, ready to share her joy and sorrow, and watch her shape her life.”