34. CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR
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 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...