Louisa May Alcott: Rose in Bloom

Chapter 20. WHAT MAC DID (continued)

Many faults it had, but was so full of promise that it was evident Mac had not "kept good company, read good books, loved good things, and cultivated soul and body as faithfully as he could" in vain. It all told now, for truth and virtue had blossomed into character and had a language of their own more eloquent than the poetry to which they were what the fragrance is to the flower. Wiser critics than Rose felt and admired this; less partial ones could not deny their praise to a first effort, which seemed as spontaneous and aspiring as a lark's song; and, when one or two of these Jupiters had given a nod of approval, Mac found himself, not exactly famous, but much talked about. One set abused, the other set praised, and the little book was sadly mauled among them, for it was too original to be ignored, and too robust to be killed by hard usage, so it came out of the fray none the worse but rather brighter, if anything, for the friction which proved the gold genuine.

This took time, however, and Rose could only sit at home reading all the notices she could get, as well as the literary gossip Phebe sent her, for Mac seldom wrote, and never a word about himself, so Phebe skillfully extracted from him in their occasional meetings all the personal news her feminine wit could collect and faithfully reported it.

It was a little singular that without a word of inquiry on either side, the letters of the girls were principally filled with tidings of their respective lovers. Phebe wrote about Mac; Rose answered with minute particulars about Archie; and both added hasty items concerning their own affairs, as if these were of little consequence.

Phebe got the most satisfaction out of the correspondence, for soon after the book appeared Rose began to want Mac home again and to be rather jealous of the new duties and delights that kept him. She was immensely proud of her poet, and had little jubilees over the beautiful fulfillment of her prophecies, for even Aunt Plenty owned now with contrition that "the boy was not a fool." Every word of praise was read aloud on the housetops, so to speak, by happy Rose; every adverse criticism was hotly disputed; and the whole family was in a great state of pleasant excitement over this unexpectedly successful first flight of the Ugly Duckling, now generally considered by his relatives as the most promising young swan of the flock.

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