Jack and Jill. A Village Story - Louisa May Alcott - ebook
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Louisa May Alcott, more famously known for her „Little Women” series, takes a familiar nursery rhyme and creates a whole novel out of it in one of her last books „Jack and Jill. A Village Story”. The story follows the lives of two 13-year-old neighbors, Jack and Jill, in the fictional Harmony Village. They go sledding on the first day of the season whereupon their adventurous natures and competitiveness get the better of them. After sledding down a particularly treacherous slope, both are seriously injured. Patience and sweetness of temperament aren’t Jack and Jill’s strong suits, and both struggle at times to control their tempers. Luckily they have the influence of their sweet mothers and a group of steadfast friends to show them the virtues of patience and fill their days with the joys of Christmas preparations, a theatrical production and many other imaginative events. As an early forerunner of the „tough love” philosophy of child rearing, „Jack and Jill” is indeed an interesting and entertaining read.

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Contents

JACK AND JILL

Chapter I. The Catastrophe

Chapter II. Two Penitents

Chapter III. Ward No. 1

Chapter IV. Ward No. 2

Chapter V. Secrets

Chapter VI. Surprises

Chapter VII. Jill's Mission

Chapter VIII. Merry and Molly

Chapter IX. The Debating Club

Chapter X. The Dramatic Club

Chapter XI. “Down Brakes”

Chapter XII. The Twenty-Second of February

Chapter XIII. Jack Has a Mystery

Chapter XIV. And Jill Finds It Out

Chapter XV. Saint Lucy

Chapter XVI. Up at Merry's

Chapter XVII. Down at Molly's

Chapter XVIII. May Baskets

Chapter XIX. Good Templars

Chapter XX. A Sweet Memory

Chapter XXI. Pebbly Beach

Chapter XXII. A Happy Day

Chapter XXIII. Cattle Show

Chapter XXIV. Down the River

JACK AND JILL

Jack and Jill went up the hill To coast with fun and laughter; Jack fell down and broke his crown, And Jill came tumbling after.

Chapter I. The Catastrophe

“Clear the lulla!” was the general cry on a bright December afternoon, when all the boys and girls of Harmony Village were out enjoying the first good snow of the season. Up and down three long coasts they went as fast as legs and sleds could carry them. One smooth path led into the meadow, and here the little folk congregated; one swept across the pond, where skaters were darting about like water-bugs; and the third, from the very top of the steep hill, ended abruptly at a rail fence on the high bank above the road. There was a group of lads and lasses sitting or leaning on this fence to rest after an exciting race, and, as they reposed, they amused themselves with criticising their mates, still absorbed in this most delightful of out-door sports.

“Here comes Frank Minot, looking as solemn as a judge,” cried one, as a tall fellow of sixteen spun by, with a set look about the mouth and a keen sparkle of the eyes, fixed on the distant goal with a do-or-die expression.

“Here’s Molly Loo And little Boo!”

sang out another; and down came a girl with flying hair, carrying a small boy behind her, so fat that his short legs stuck out from the sides, and his round face looked over her shoulder like a full moon.

“There’s Gus Burton; doesn’t he go it?” and such a very long boy whizzed by, that it looked almost as if his heels were at the top of the hill when his head was at the bottom!

“Hurrah for Ed Devlin!” and a general shout greeted a sweet-faced lad, with a laugh on his lips, a fine color on his brown cheek, and a gay word for every girl he passed.

“Laura and Lotty keep to the safe coast into the meadow, and Molly Loo is the only girl that dares to try this long one to the pond. I wouldn’t for the world; the ice can’t be strong yet, though it is cold enough to freeze one’s nose off,” said a timid damsel, who sat hugging a post and screaming whenever a mischievous lad shook the fence.

“No, she isn’t; here’s Jack and Jill going like fury.”

“Clear the track For jolly Jack!”

sang the boys, who had rhymes and nicknames for nearly every one.

Down came a gay red sled, bearing a boy who seemed all smile and sunshine, so white were his teeth, so golden was his hair, so bright and happy his whole air. Behind him clung a little gypsy of a girl, with black eyes and hair, cheeks as red as her hood, and a face full of fun and sparkle, as she waved Jack’s blue tippet like a banner with one hand, and held on with the other.

“Jill goes wherever Jack does, and he lets her. He’s such a good-natured chap, he can’t say ‘No.’”

“To a girl,” slyly added one of the boys, who had wished to borrow the red sled, and had been politely refused because Jill wanted it.

“He’s the nicest boy in the world, for he never gets mad,” said the timid young lady, recalling the many times Jack had shielded her from the terrors which beset her path to school, in the shape of cows, dogs, and boys who made faces and called her “'Fraid-cat.”

“He doesn’t dare to get mad with Jill, for she’d take his head off in two minutes if he did,” growled Joe Flint, still smarting from the rebuke Jill had given him for robbing the little ones of their safe coast because he fancied it.

“She wouldn’t! she’s a dear! You needn’t sniff at her because she is poor. She’s ever so much brighter than you are, or she wouldn’t always be at the head of your class, old Joe,” cried the girls, standing by their friend with a unanimity which proved what a favorite she was.

Joe subsided with as scornful a curl to his nose as its chilly state permitted, and Merry Grant introduced a subject of general interest by asking abruptly,–

“Who is going to the candy-scrape to-night?”

“All of us. Frank invited the whole set, and we shall have a tip-top time. We always do at the Minots’,” cried Sue, the timid trembler.

“Jack said there was a barrel of molasses in the house, so there would be enough for all to eat and some to carry away. They know how to do things handsomely;” and the speaker licked his lips, as if already tasting the feast in store for him.

“Mrs. Minot is a mother worth having,” said Molly Loo, coming up with Boo on the sled; and she knew what it was to need a mother, for she had none, and tried to care for the little brother with maternal love and patience.

“She is just as sweet as she can be!” declared Merry, enthusiastically.

“Especially when she has a candy-scrape,” said Joe, trying to be amiable, lest he should be left out of the party.

Whereat they all laughed, and went gayly away for a farewell frolic, as the sun was setting and the keen wind nipped fingers and toes as well as noses.

Down they went, one after another, on the various coasts,–solemn Frank, long Gus, gallant Ed, fly-away Molly Loo, pretty Laura and Lotty, grumpy Joe, sweet-faced Merry with Sue shrieking wildly behind her, gay Jack and gypsy Jill, always together,–one and all bubbling over with the innocent jollity born of healthful exercise. People passing in the road below looked up and smiled involuntarily at the red-cheeked lads and lasses, filling the frosty air with peals of laughter and cries of triumph as they flew by in every conceivable attitude; for the fun was at its height now, and the oldest and gravest observers felt a glow of pleasure as they looked, remembering their own young days.

“Jack, take me down that coast. Joe said I wouldn’t dare to do it, so I must,” commanded Jill, as they paused for breath after the long trudge up hill. Jill, of course, was not her real name, but had been given because of her friendship with Jack, who so admired Janey Pecq’s spirit and fun.

“I guess I wouldn’t. It is very bumpy and ends in a big drift; not half so nice as this one. Hop on and we’ll have a good spin across the pond;” and Jack brought “Thunderbolt” round with a skilful swing and an engaging air that would have won obedience from anybody but wilful Jill.

“It is very nice, but I won’t be told I don’t ‘dare’ by any boy in the world. If you are afraid, I’ll go alone.” And, before he could speak, she had snatched the rope from his hand, thrown herself upon the sled, and was off, helter-skelter, down the most dangerous coast on the hill-side.

She did not get far, however; for, starting in a hurry, she did not guide her steed with care, and the red charger landed her in the snow half-way down, where she lay laughing till Jack came to pick her up.

“If you will go, I’ll take you down all right. I’m not afraid, for I’ve done it a dozen times with the other fellows; but we gave it up because it is short and bad,” he said, still good-natured, though a little hurt at the charge of cowardice; for Jack was as brave as a little lion, and with the best sort of bravery,–the courage to do right.

“So it is; but I must do it a few times, or Joe will plague me and spoil my fun to-night,” answered Jill, shaking her skirts and rubbing her blue hands, wet and cold with the snow.

“Here, put these on; I never use them. Keep them if they fit; I only carry them to please mother.” And Jack pulled out a pair of red mittens with the air of a boy used to giving away.

“They are lovely warm, and they do fit. Must be too small for your paws, so I’ll knit you a new pair for Christmas, and make you wear them, too,” said Jill, putting on the mittens with a nod of thanks, and ending her speech with a stamp of her rubber boots to enforce her threat.

Jack laughed, and up they trudged to the spot whence the three coasts diverged.

“Now, which will you have?” he asked, with a warning look in the honest blue eyes which often unconsciously controlled naughty Jill against her will.

“That one!” and the red mitten pointed firmly to the perilous path just tried.

“You will do it?”

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