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Louisa M. Alcott: Author Of "Little Women"
by [?]

Louisa was too young to go to school then, except as a visitor, but her father developed her young mind at home according to his own theories of education, and during the remainder of the all-too short days the active child was free to amuse herself as she chose. To play on the Common was her great delight, for she was a born investigator, and there she met children of all classes, who appealed to her many-sided nature in different ways. Louisa was never a respecter of class distinctions–it did not matter to her where people lived, or whether their hands and faces were dirty, if some personal characteristic attracted her to them, and from those early days she was unconsciously studying human nature, and making ready for the work of later years.

In her own sketch of those early days, she says:

“Running away was one of my great delights, and I still enjoy sudden flights out of the nest to look about this very interesting world and then go back to report!”

On one of her investigating tours, she met some Irish children whose friendliness delighted her, and she spent a wonderful day with them, sharing their dinner of cold potatoes, salt fish and bread crusts. Then–delightful pastime–they all played in the ash-heaps for some time, and took a trip to the Common together. But when twilight came, her new friends deserted her, leaving her a long way from home, and little Louisa began to think very longingly of her mother and sister. But as she did not know how to find her way back she sat down on a door-step, where a big dog was lying. He was so friendly that she cuddled up against his broad back and fell asleep. How long she slept she did not know, but she was awakened by the loud ringing of a bell, and a man’s deep voice calling:

“Little girl lost! Six years old–in a pink frock, white hat and new green shoes. Little girl lost! Little girl lost!”

It was the town crier, and as he rang his bell and gave his loud cry, out of the darkness he heard a small voice exclaim:

“Why, dat’s me !”

With great difficulty the crier was able to persuade the child to unclasp her arms from the neck of the big friendly dog, but at last she left him, and was taken to the crier’s home and “feasted sumptuously on bread and molasses in a tin plate with the alphabet round it,” while her frantic family was being notified. The unhappy ending to that incident is very tersely told by Louisa, who says: “My fun ended the next day, when I was tied to the arm of the sofa to repent at leisure!”

That the six years spent in Boston were happy ones, and that the budding spirit of Louisa was filled with joy at merely being alive, was shown one morning, when, at the breakfast table, she suddenly looked up with an all-embrasive smile and exclaimed:

“I love everybody in dis whole world!”

Despite the merriment which was always a feature of the Alcott home, as they were all blessed with a sense of humor which helped them over many a hard place, there was an underlying anxiety for Mr. and Mrs. Alcott, as the school was gradually growing smaller and there was barely enough income to support their family, to which a third daughter, Elizabeth, the “Beth” of Little Women, had been added recently. During those days they lived on very simple fare, which the children disliked, as their rice had to be eaten without sugar and their mush without butter or molasses. Nor did Mr. Alcott allow meat on his table, as he thought it wrong to eat any creature which had to be killed for the purpose. An old family friend who lived at a Boston hotel sympathized strongly with the children’s longing for sweets, and every day at dinner she saved them a piece of pie or cake, which Louisa would call for, carrying a bandbox for the purpose. The friend was in Europe for years, and when she returned Louisa Alcott had become famous. Meeting her on the street one day, Louisa greeted her old friend, eagerly: