"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
"It's so dreadful
to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
"I don't think it's fair
for some girls to have plenty
of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff
"We've got Father and Mother, and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner
The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, "We haven't got Father, and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was.
for a minute
; then Meg said in an altered tone
, "You know the reason
Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering
so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't." And Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully
of all the pretty things she wanted.
"But I don't think the little we should spend would do any good. We've each got a dollar, and the army wouldn't be much helped by our giving that. I agree
not to expect anything from Mother or you, but I do want to buy UNDINE AND SINTRAM for myself. I've wanted it so long," said Jo, who was a bookworm.
"I planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth brush and kettle holder.
"I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils. I really need
them," said Amy decidedly.
"Mother didn't say anything about our money, and she won't wish us to give up everything. Let's each buy what we want, and have a little fun. I'm sure we work hard enough to earn
it," cried Jo, examining the heels of her shoes in a gentlemanly manner.
"I know I do--teaching those tiresome
children nearly all day, when I'm longing
myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone
"You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. "How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous
old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied
, and worries you till
you're ready to fly out the window or cry?"
, but I do think washing dishes and keeping things tidy
is the worst work in the world. It makes me cross
, and my hands get so stiff
, I can't practice
well at all." And Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh
that anyone could hear that time.
"I don't believe any of you suffer
as I do," cried Amy, "for you don't have to go to school with impertinent
girls, who plague
you if you don't know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label
your father if he isn't rich, and insult
you when your nose isn't nice."
"If you mean libel
, I'd say so, and not talk about labels, as if Papa was a pickle bottle," advised Jo, laughing.
"Don't peck at one another, children. Don't you wish we had the money Papa lost
when we were little, Jo? Dear me! How happy and good we'd be, if we had no worries!" said Meg, who could remember
"You said the other day you thought
we were a deal happier than the King children, for they were fighting and fretting all the time, in spite
of their money."
"So I did, Beth. Well, I think we are. For though we do have to work, we make fun of ourselves, and are a pretty jolly set, as Jo would say."
"Jo does use such slang
words!" observed Amy, with a reproving look at the long figure
stretched on the rug.
"That's why I do it."
"Birds in their little nests agree
," sang Beth, the peacemaker, with such a funny face that both sharp
voices softened to a laugh, and the "pecking" ended for that time.
"Really, girls, you are both to be blamed," said Meg, beginning to lecture
in her elder-sisterly fashion
."You are old enough to leave off boyish
tricks, and to behave
better, Josephine. It didn't matter
so much when you were a little girl, but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should remember
that you are a young lady."
"I'm not! And if turning up my hair makes me one, I'll wear it in two tails till
I'm twenty," cried Jo, pulling off her net, and shaking down a chestnut mane
. "I hate to think I've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns, and look as prim
as a China Aster! It's bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boy's games and work and manners! I can't get over my disappointment
in not being a boy. And it's worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with Papa. And I can only stay home and knit
, like a poky old woman!"
And Jo shook the blue army sock till
the needles rattled like castanets
, and her ball
bounded across the room.