Castles on the Ground

“Josephine March! You can’t go running out there half-dressed!”  Hannah tsk’d to herself as Jo, mostly dressed, but with her hair loose and her feet bare, ran out the front door and down the walk to throw herself at the gentleman who was just arriving.  Jo didn’t care. Finally, Friedrich was back!

When Aunt March had passed away and left Plumfield to Jo, it settled everything. No more scrimping and saving for the two of them to buy a house, now they had one with tons of room and land included! They could start their school almost immediately.  First though, was the wedding.

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The wedding took place in the March’s back yard. It was small and intimate, as only close friends and family attended. Jo thought it was perfect. Her heart was so full of joy and happiness that she couldn’t stop smiling. She felt as if it all had to spill out somehow or she’d explode. Every word she spoke all day, even her vows, sounded as if she’d begin laughing any moment. Fritz was only a little more restrained. He believed in showing one’s emotions, and when you were happy, hiding it did nothing.

After Mr. March had pronounced them man and wife, and said a prayer for the new couple, Fritz’s “Amen!” was so loud that it startled the birds that had lighted on the tree branches in the yard and they all flew away.

“Aunt Dodo and Uncle Fwitz made the birdies fly ‘way!” Demi blurted it out before Meg could shush him.  Of course, had it been any wedding but Jo’s, Demi’s remark would have been cause for frowns and little sounds of disapproval from those gathered, but in this case, the bride actually leaned into the row of chairs and kissed the little boy on the cheek. “Just for you, Demi, and you too, Daisy!”  Everyone laughed as Jo and Fritz fairly skipped down the last bit of aisle, then stopped to let everyone gather around them to give their congratulations and well-wishes.

The rest of the afternoon went by in a blur, though Jo tried to slow it down through sheer willpower. Every smile, every word, every bite of food—she intended to keep them tucked safely away in her memory for a long time.  Jo looked to the band—two of her family’s neighbors who played fiddle—and nodded, saying, “Now please!”

Fritz positively glowed when they began to play several of the light-hearted German songs he knew, songs that were always played at festivals and parties. He nearly fell over when Jo took his hand and began the steps to a traditional folk-dance that accompanied the songs.

“Vat haf you done?! Thou has learned these for me? Now my happiness is complete!”  He twirled Jo around, in and among the other dancers, until they both forgot that anyone else was even near.

“I wanted to surprise you. “

“And it was a wonderful surprise.”

Too soon, the sun began to set and friends and family had to leave.  Teddy had one little gift for the married couple though Jo had insisted they wanted none. When it came time for Jo and the Professor to leave, instead of walking to the nearest cab stand, Teddy had one of his own grooms decorate the small hansom to carry them home in style.

It wasn’t a very long trip to Plumfield, and to Jo it flew by in seconds. Then Fritz stepped out, turned to lift her out of the carriage, and set her down.  When they reached the doorway after crossing the wide porch, Fritz lifted her again, carrying his bride over the threshold for the first time.  Jo threw her arms around his neck and covered his face in kisses. When they finally arrived inside, Fritz shut the door by kicking it with his foot, then he set Jo down.

“Ve are home, my love. Never did I imagine to come here to America and find such a treasure! Thou art my dream fulfilled, Jo.  Mine hands are never to be empty again.”

“An thou art my dream fulfilled, Friedrich.”

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They made a habit of having a last cup of tea (for Jo) and coffee (for Fritz) after dinner every evening. If it was nice outside, they often carried the cups to the front porch, and sat on the steps or in the swing to drink them. Jo would sometimes sit and look out over the grounds, imagining it full of boys of all ages, playing, running, screaming.  “Fritz, does thou remember when I told of the way the four of us girls used to build our castles in the air? I must admit to thinking that this dream, is much better, for it is built on solid ground.”

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When Friedrich’s nephews arrived, Jo felt as if they could start building the school. Or at least they could start collecting students.  She was anxious for all the rooms to be filled, and their days to be active and exciting and full of learning. And if it took a little time for the school to become self-sufficient, well then, she would try writing again.  Although Fritz had disapproved of her writing when they first met, it wasn’t really because she wrote, it had been more about what she wrote. He thoroughly disliked the trashy, sensational, immoral stories that she’d been writing at the time.  She hadn’t approved of them either, to tell the truth, but she justified it by telling herself that she had to do it for the money, to help her family.  

This time she would not make that mistake. She’d write from her heart, and the stories would show the value in living a good life—that rewards weren’t always monetary or for the wicked. Fritz read her first one, smiling as he finished. “It’s not at all like those other stories of mine.”

He kissed her cheek. “I haf seen this. This is a story thou should always write, my dear. It is like the warm sun on a spring day, happy and kind.”

“And no ink all over my fingers! When I think back, I realize how selfish I had been. I didn’t ignore my other duties, but sometimes, I hurried to get back to my scribbling. Those awful things!”

“And now, as thou hast said, thy dreams are all here, no needing to put them on paper. Thou art living them.”

“That I am, Fritz. That WE are!”




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