“也许吧，但这个家从来都没有什么喜事，“心情欠佳的梅格说，“我们日复一日辛苦操劳，但却没有丝毫变化，生活还是枯燥乏味，这不等于活受罪嘛。“ “啊呀，我们真是牢骚满腹！“乔叫道，“我倒不怎么奇怪，可怜的人儿，因为你看到别的姑娘们风光快乐，自己却长年累月辛辛苦苦地干啊干埃噢，我但愿能为你 安排命运，就像我为自己笔下的女主人公所做的那样！你天生丽质，更兼心地善良，我要安排某个有钱的亲戚出人意料地给你留下一笔财产；于是你成了女继承人， 出人头地，对曾经小看你的人不屑一顾，飘洋出国，最后成了高雅的贵夫人衣锦还乡。““这种事情，今天是不会再有的了。男人得工作，女人得嫁人，这样才能有 钱。这个世界好不公平，“梅格苦涩地说。
“不能等了，再说我对你们的笔墨和泥土也没什么信心，虽然我很感激你们的美意。“梅格叹了一声，又把头转向寒霜满布的园子。乔咕哝着垂头丧气地把双 肘支在桌子上，艾美却激动地继续争吵，这时坐在另一面窗边的贝思微笑说：“两桩喜事马上就要临门了：妈咪正从街上走过来；劳里大步穿过园子，好像有好消息 要宣布。“两人双双走进来，马奇太太习惯地问道：“爸爸有信来吗，姑娘们？“劳里则邀她们：“你们有谁愿意出去驾车兜风吗？我做数学做得头昏脑涨，想出去 兜一圈清醒一下。天气沉闷，不过空气还不坏，我准备接布鲁克回家，所以即使车子外头乏味，里头也是热闹的。来吧，乔，你和贝思都来，好吗？““我们当然 来。“你的心意我领了，但我没空。“梅格赶快拿出篮子，因为她和母亲商定，最好，至少对她来说，不要经常和这位年轻绅士驾车外出。
大家气平静息地听着，房间一片死寂，外面也奇怪地变得昏昏惨惨，世界好像突然变了个模样，姐妹们围着母亲，只觉得仿佛所有的幸福和她们的生活支柱都 要被夺走了。马奇太太旋即恢复了神态，她把电报看了一遍，伸出手臂扶着几个女儿，用一种令她们永远也不会忘记的声调说：“我这就动身，但也可能太迟了。 哦，孩子们，孩子们，帮我承受这一切吧！“有好一会儿房间里只听到一片啜齐声，夹杂着断断续续的安慰声和轻柔的宽解声。大家呜呜咽咽，话不成语。可怜的罕 娜首先恢复了常态，不知不觉地为大家树立了榜样，因蛊为，对于她来说，工作就是解除痛苦的灵丹妙药。
“乔，赶快到寓所告诉金斯夫人我不能来了。顺路把这些东西买来。我把它们写下来，它们会派上用场的，我得做好护理的准备，医院的商店不一定好。贝 思，去向劳伦斯先生要两瓶陈年葡萄酒：为父亲我可以放下面子向人乞求，他应该得到最好的东西。艾美，告诉罕娜把黑色行李箱拿下来；梅格，你来帮我找找要用 的东西，我脑子乱极了。“既要写字动脑筋，又要发号施令，这样大可以使这可怜的女士头脑昏乱，梅格便请她在自己的房间里静静小坐一会，让她们来干。众人分 头散去，就像随风而去的树叶；那封电报犹如一纸恶符，一下子便把宁静温馨的家庭拆散。
劳伦斯先生随贝思匆匆而来，好心的老人给病人带来了他能想到的各种慰问品，并友好地承诺在马奇太太离家期间照顾姑娘们，这使马奇太太倍感欣慰。他更 主动施以援手，提供各项帮助，小至自己的晨衣，大至亲自当护驾，等等。当护驾是不可能的了，因为马奇太太不愿让老人长途跋涉。不过，当她听到他这样说时脸 上流露出一丝宽慰的神情，因为她忧心如焚确实不适宜孤身上路。老人看到她的神情，浓眉一皱，擦擦双手，突然抬脚就走，口里说这就回来。大家忙乱之中便把他 给忘了。不料当梅格一手拿着一对橡皮套鞋，一手拿着一杯茶跑出门口时，却突然碰到了布鲁克先生。
“听到这个消息我万分难过，马奇小姐，“他说，声调亲切轻柔。心乱如麻的梅格觉得这声音十分动听。“我来请求当蛊你妈妈的护驾。劳伦斯先生交代我在 华盛顿办点事，能在那边为她效劳将是我一大乐事。“橡皮套鞋落到了地上，茶也差一点就溢了出来，梅格伸出手，脸上充满感激之情，布鲁克先生见状恨不能以身 相报，更别说付出一点时间来照顾马奇太太了。
到劳里回来的时候，一切已安排就绪。他从马奇婶婶处带来一张便条，内附她们所希望的金额和几句她以前常常唠叨的话--她早就再三告诫她们，让马奇参 军是桩荒唐事，不会有什么好结果的，她希望她们下次能够听她的劝告。马奇太太看后把纸条放到火炉里，把钱装进钱包，紧闭双唇，继续收拾行装。要是乔在场的 话，乔一定能懂得她那副神情。
下午很快就过去了，大小事情已一一办妥，梅格和母亲忙着做一些必需的针线活，贝思和艾美泡茶，罕娜嬷嬷乓乓地，如她所说，熨好衣服，但乔仍没回来。 众人开始有点担心，大家都不知道与众不同的乔会起什么念头，劳里便出去找她。他没碰上她，乔却古里古怪地走了进来，神情若喜若悲，似笑似恨，大家正在诧异 不解之间，她又把一卷钞票摆在母亲面前，哽哽咽咽地说：“这是我献给爸爸的礼物，让他舒舒服服，平安回家！““好孩子，这钱是怎么来的？二十五元！乔，你 不是干了蛊什么傻事吧？““不是，这钱千真万确是我的。我没讨，没借，也没偷。
“你的头发！你那漂亮的头发！““噢，乔你怎能这样？你秀美的头发！““好女儿，你没必要这么做。““她不像我的乔了，但我因此而更深爱她。“在大 家的叫声中，贝思把乔剪成平头的脑袋紧紧搂在怀里，乔故意装出一副满不在乎的神态，但却骗不过大家；她用手拨弄一下棕色的短发，以示自己喜欢这种发式， 说：“这又不是什么惊天动地的大事，别这么嚎啕大哭了，贝思。这正好可以治治我的虚荣心，我原来对自己的头发也太自鸣得意了点儿。现在剪掉这头乱发，还可 以健脑益智，我的脑袋变得又轻便又好使，理发师说短发很快就可以卷曲起来，这样既活泼好看，又容易梳理。我高兴着呢，收起钞票，我们吃饭吧。““把事情经 过告诉我，乔。我并不是十分满意，但我不能责怪你，因为我知道你是多么愿意为自己所爱的人牺牲你所谓的虚荣心。不过，亲爱的，你没必要这样，我怕你有一天 会后悔呢，“马奇太太说。
“嗯，我十分渴望能为爸爸做点事，“乔回答。这时大家已经围在桌边，年青人身体健康，即便遇上烦恼也能照样吃饭。“我像妈妈一样憎恨向人借钱，我知 道马奇婶婶又要呱呱乱叫，她向来就是这样，只要你向她借上一文钱。梅格把她这季度的薪水全交了房租，我的却用来买了衣服，我觉得自己很坏，决心无论如何要 筹点钱，哪怕是卖掉自己脸上的鼻子。““你不必为这事而觉得自己很坏，我的孩子。你没有冬衣，用自己辛苦赚来的钱买几件最扑素不过的衣服，这并没有错， “马奇太太说着慈爱地看了乔一眼。
“开始我一点也没想到要卖头发，后来我边走边盘算自己能做点什么，真想窜进富丽堂皇的商店里不问自龋我看到理发店的橱窗摆了几个发辫，都标了价，一 个黑色发辫，还不及我的粗，标价四十元。我突然想到我有一样东西可以换钱，于是我顾不上多想便走了进去，问他们要不要头发，我的他们给多少钱。““我不明 白你怎么这样勇敢。“贝思肃然起敬。
“哦。老板是个小个子男人，看他的样子似乎他活着就是为了给他的头发上油。他一开始有点吃惊，看来他不习惯女孩子闯进他的店子里叫他买头发。他说他 对我的没什么兴趣，因为颜色并不时髦，首先他不会出高价；这头发要经过加工才值钱，等等。天色将晚，我担心如果我不马上做成这桩买卖，那就根本做不成了， 你们也知道我做事不喜欢半途而废；于是我求他把头发买下，并告诉他我为何这样着急。这样做蛊当然很傻，但他听后改变了主意，因为我当时相当激动，话说得语 无伦次。他妻子听到了，好心地说：'买下吧，汤姆斯，成全这位小姐吧，如果我有一把值钱的头发，我也会为我们的吉米这样做的。'““吉米是谁？“逢事喜欢 让人解释的艾美问道。
“趁那男人做准备的当儿，我看了自己的头发最后一眼，仅此而已。我从不为这种小事浪费感情。不过我承认当我看到自己的宝贝头发摆在桌上，摸摸脑袋只 剩下又短又粗的发脚时，心里很不自在。这种滋味简直有点像掉了一只手臂一条腿。那女人看到我盯着头发，便捡起一绺长发给我保存。我现在把它交给您，妈妈， 以此纪念我昔日的光彩，因为短发舒服极了，我想我以后再也不会留长发了。“马奇太太把卷曲的栗色发绺折起来，把它和一绺灰白色的短发一起放在她的桌子里 头，只说了一句：“难为你了，宝贝。“但她脸上的神色、使姑娘们换了个话题。她们强打精神，谈论布鲁克先生是怎样一个好人，又说明天一定天气晴朗，爸爸回 来养病的时候大家就可以共享天伦之乐了，等等。
她们静静地亲亲母亲，轻手轻脚地走上床，仿佛生病的父亲就躺在隔壁房间里。尽管挂虑父亲，贝思和艾美还是很快就睡着了，梅格却全无睡意，躺在床上思 考她短短的一生以来所遇到的最为严肃的问题。乔躺着也不动，梅格以为她早已入睡，不料却听到一下低低的抽齐声，她一伸手，摸到一张湿漉漉的脸颊，不禁叫起 来--“乔，亲爱的，怎么回事？是为爸爸伤心吗？““不，这会儿不是。““那是为什么？““我-—我的头发！“可怜的乔冲口说道。她用枕头死死堵住嘴巴， 试图掩住激动的啜齐声，但却徒费功夫。
时钟敲响十二点，更深夜静，一个人影在床间悄悄移动，把这边的被角掖好，把那边的枕头摆正，又停下来深情地久久凝视着每张熟睡的面孔，轻轻吻吻她 们，然后带着无限的爱意热诚祈祷。当她拉起窗帘，望着沉沉夜色时，月亮穿云破雾，倏忽而出，向她洒下一片祥和的光辉，似乎在静夜中悄悄低语：“别着急，善 良的人！守得云开见月明。“
"November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year,"said Margaret, standing at the window one dull afternoon,looking out at the frostbitten garden.
"That's the reason I was born in it," observed Jo pensively,quite unconscious of the blot on her nose.
"If something very pleasant should happen now, we shouldthink it a delightful month," said Beth, who took a hopeful viewof everything, even November.
"I dare say, but nothing pleasant ever does happen in thisfamily," said Meg, who was out of sorts. "We go grubbing alongday after day, without a bit of change, and very little fun. Wemight as well be in a treadmill."
"My patience, how blue we are!" cried Jo. "I don't muchwonder, poor dear, for you see other girls having splendid times,while you grind, grind, year in and year out. Oh, don't I wishI could manage things for you as I do for my heroines! You'repretty enough and good enough already, so I'd have some rich relationleave you a fortune unexpectedly. Then you'd dash out as an heiress,scorn everyone who has slighted you, go abroad, and come home my LadySomething in a blaze of splendor and elegance."
"People don't have fortunes left them in that style nowadays,men have to work and women marry for money. It's a dreadfully unjustworld," said Meg bitterly.
"Jo and I are going to make fortunes for you all. Just wait tenyears, and see if we don't," said Amy, who sat in a corner making mudpies, as Hannah called her little clay models of birds, fruit, andfaces.
"Can't wait, and I'm afraid I haven't much faith in ink and dirt,though I'm grateful for your good intentions.
Meg sighed, and turned to the frostbitten garden again. Jogroaned and leaned both elbows on the table in a despondent attitude,but Amy spatted away energetically, and Beth, who sat at the otherwindow, said, smiling, "Two pleasant things are going to happenright away. Marmee is coming down the street, and Laurie is trampingthrough the garden as if he had something nice to tell."
In they both came, Mrs. March with her usual question, "Any letterfrom Father, girls?" and Laurie to say in his persuasive way, "Won'tsome of you come for a drive? I've been working away at mathematicstill my head is in a muddle, and I'm going to freshen my wits by abrisk turn. It's a dull day, but the air isn't bad, and I'm going totake Brooke home, so it will be gay inside, if it isn't out. Come,Jo, you and Beth will go, won't you?"
"Of course we will."
"Much obliged, but I'm busy." And Meg whisked out her workbasket,for she had agreed with her mother that it was best, for her at least,not to drive too often with the young gentleman.
"We three will be ready in a minute," cried Amy, running away towash her hands.
"Can I do anything for you, Madam Mother?" asked Laurie, leaningover Mrs. March's chair with the affectionate look and tone he alwaysgave her.
"No, thank you, except call at the office, if you'll be so kind,dear. It's our day for a letter, and the postman hasn't been. Fatheris as regular as the sun, but there's some delay on the way, perhaps."
A sharp ring interrupted her, and a minute after Hannah came inwith a letter.
"It's one of them horrid telegraph things, mum," she said,handling it as if she was afraid it would explode and do some damage.
At the word `telegraph', Mrs. March snatched it, read the twolines it contained, and dropped back into her chair as white as ifthe little paper had sent a bullet to her heart. Laurie dasheddownstairs for water, while Meg and Hannah supported her, and Jo readaloud, in a frightened voice...
Your husband is very ill. Come at once.
How still the room was as they listened breathlessly, howstrangely the day darkened outside, and how suddenly the whole worldseemed to change, as the girls gathered about their mother, feelingas if all the happiness and support of their lives was about to betaken from them.
Mrs. March was herself again directly, read the message over,and stretched out her arms to her daughters, saying, in a tone theynever forgot, "I shall go at once, but it may be too late. Oh,children, children, help me to bear it!"
For several minutes there was nothing but the sound of sobbingin the room, mingled with broken words of comfort, tender assurancesof help, and hopeful whispers that died away in tears. Poor Hannahwas the first to recover, and with unconscious wisdom she set all therest a good example, for with her, work was panacea for mostafflictions.
"The Lord keep the dear man! I won't waste no time a-cryin',but git your things ready right away, mum," she said heartily, as shewiped her face on her apron, gave her mistress a warm shake of thehand with her own hard one, and went away to work like three womenin one.
"She's right, there's no time for tears now. Be calm, girls,and let me think."
They tried to be calm, poor things, as their mother sat up,looking pale but steady, and put away her grief to think and planfor them.
"Where's Laurie?' she asked presently, when she had collectedher thoughts and decided on the first duties to be done.
"Here, ma'am. Oh, let me do something!" cried the boy,hurrying from the next room whither he had withdrawn, feeling thattheir first sorrow was too sacred for even his friendly eyes to see.
"Send a telegram saying I will come at once. The next traingoes early in the morning. I'll take that."
"What else? The horses are ready. I can go anywhere, doanything," he said, looking ready to fly to the ends of the earth.
"Leave a note at Aunt March's. Jo, give me that pen and paper."
Tearing off the blank side of one of her newly copied pages,Jo drew the table before her mother, well knowing that money for thelong, sad journey must be borrowed, and feeling as if she could doanything to add to a little to the sum for her father.
"Now go, dear, but don't kill yourself driving at a desperatepace. There is no need of that."
Mrs. March's warning was evidently thrown away, for five minuteslater Laurie tore by the window on his own fleet horse, riding as iffor his life.
"Jo, run to the rooms, and tell Mrs. King that I can't come.On the way get these things. I'll put them down, they'll be neededand I must go prepared for nursing. Hospital stores are not alwaysgood. Beth, go and ask Mr. Laurence for a couple of bottles of oldwine. I'm not too proud to beg for Father. He shall have the bestof everything. Amy, tell Hannah to get down the black trunk, andMeg, come and help me find my things, for I'm half bewildered."
Writing, thinking, and directing all at once might well bewilderthe poor lady, and Meg begged her to sit quietly in her roomfor a little while, and let them work. Everyone scatteredlike leaves before a gust of wind, and the quiet, happy householdwas broken up as suddenly as if the paper had been an evil spell.
Mr. Laurence came hurrying back with Beth, bringing everycomfort the kind old gentleman could think of for the invalid, andfriendliest promises of protection for the girls during the mother'sabsence, which comforted her very much. There was nothing he didn'toffer, from his own dressing gown to himself as escort. But thelast was impossible. Mrs. March would not hear of the oldgentleman's undertaking the long journey, yet an expression of relief wasvisible when he spoke of it, for anxiety ill fits one for traveling.He saw the look, knit his heavy eyebrows, rubbed his hands, andmarched abruptly away, saying he'd be back directly. No one hadtime to think of him again till, as Meg ran through the entry, witha pair of rubbers in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, shecame suddenly upon Mr. Brooke.
"I'm very sorry to hear of this, Miss March," he said, in thekind, quiet tone which sounded very pleasantly to her perturbedspirit. "I came to offer myself as escort to your mother. Mr.Laurence has commissions for me in Washington, and it will give mereal satisfaction to be of service to her there."
Down dropped the rubbers, and the tea was very near following,as Meg put out her hand, with a face so full of gratitude that Mr.Brooke would have felt repaid for a much greater sacrifice thanthe trifling one of time and comfort which he was about to take.
"How kind you all are! Mother will accept, I'm sure, and itwill be such a relief to know that she has someone to take care ofher. Thank you very, very much!"
Meg spoke earnestly, and forgot herself entirely till somethingin the brown eyes looking down at her made her remember thecooling tea, and lead the way into the parlor, saying she wouldcall her mother.
Everything was arranged by the time Laurie returned with anote from Aunt March, enclosing the desired sum, and a few linesrepeating what she had often said before, that she had always toldthem it was absurd for March to go into the army, always predictedthat no good would come of it, and she hoped they would take heradvice the next time. Mrs. March put the note in the fire, themoney in her purse, and went on with her preparations, with herlips folded tightly in a way which Jo would have understood if shehad been there.
The short afternoon wore away. All other errands were done,and Meg and her mother busy at some necessary needlework, whileBeth and Amy goth tea, and Hannah finished her ironing with whatshe called a `slap and a bang', but still Jo did not come. Theybegan to get anxious, and Laurie went off to find her, for no oneknew what freak Jo might take into her head. He missed her,however, and she came walking in with a very queer expression ofcountenance, for there was a mixture of fun and fear, satisfactionand regret in it, which puzzled the family as much as did the rollof bills she laid before her mother, saying with a little choke inher voice, "That's my contribution toward making Father comfortableand bringing him home!"
"My dear, where did you get it? Twenty-five dollars! Jo, Ihope you haven't done anything rash?"
"No, it's mine honestly. I didn't beg, borrow, or steal it. Iearned it, and I don't think you'll blame me, for I only sold whatwas my own."
As she spoke, Jo took off her bonnet, and a general outcry arose,for all her abundant hair was cut short.
"Your hair! Your beautiful hair!" "Oh, Jo, how could you? Yourone beauty." "My dear girl, there was no need of this." "She doesn'tlook like my Jo any more, but I love her dearly for it!"
As everyone exclaimed, and Beth hugged the cropped head tenderly,Jo assumed an indifferent air, which did not deceive anyone a particle,and said, rumpling up the brown bush and trying to look as if she likedit, "It doesn't affect the fate of the nation, so don't wail, Beth. Itwill be good for my vanity, I getting too proud of my wig. It will domy brains good to have that mop taken off. My head feels deliciouslylight and cool, and the barber said I could soon have a curly crop,which will be boyish, becoming, and easy to keep in order. I'm satisfied,so please take the money and let's have supper."
"Tell me all about it, Jo. I am not quite satisfied, but I can'tblame you, for I know how willingly you sacrificed your vanity, asyou call it, to your love. But, my dear, it was not necessary, andI'm afraid you will regret it one of these days," said Mrs. March.
"No, I won't!" returned Jo stoutly, feeling much relieved thather prank was not entirely condemned.
"What made you do it?" asked Amy, who would as soon have thoughtof cutting off her head as her pretty hair.
"Well, I was wild to to something for Father," replied Jo, asthey gathered about the table, for healthy young people can eat evenin the midst of trouble. "I hate to borrow as much as Mother does,and I knew Aunt March would croak, she always does, if you ask fora ninepence. Meg gave all her quarterly salary toward the rent, andI only got some clothes with mine, so I felt wicked, and was boundto have some money, if I sold the nose off my face to get it."
"You needn't feel wicked, my child! You had no winter things andgot the simplest with your own hard earnings," said Mrs. March with alook that warmed Jo's heart.
"I hadn't the least idea of selling my hair at first, but as Iwent along I kept thinking what I could do, and feeling as if I'dlike to dive into some of the rich stores and help myself. In abarber's window I saw tails of hair with the prices marked, and oneblack tail, not so thick as mine, was forty dollars. It came to meall of a sudden that I had one thing to make money out of, andwithout stopping to think, I walked in, asked if they bought hair,and what they would give for mine."
"I don't see how you dared to do it," said Beth in a tone of awe.
"Oh, he was a little man who looked as if he merely lived to oilhis hair. He rather stared at first, as if he wasn't used to havinggirls bounce into his shop and ask him to buy their hair. He said hedidn't care about mine, it wasn't the fashionable color, and he neverpaid much for it in the first place. The work he put it into it madeit dear, and so on. It was getting late, and I was afraid if itwasn't done right away that I shouldn't have it done at all, and youknow when I start to do a thing, I hate to give it up. So I beggedhim to take it, and told him why I was in such a hurry. It wassilly, I dare say, but it changed his mind, for I got rather excited,and told the story in my topsy-turvy way, and his wife heard, andsaid so kindly, `Take it, Thomas, and oblige the young lady. I'd doas much for our Jimmy any day if I had a spire of hair worth selling."
"Who was Jimmy?" asked Amy, who liked to have things explainedas they went along.
"Her son, she said, who was in the army. How friendly suchthings make strangers feel, don't they? She talked away all thetime the man clipped, and diverted my mind nicely."
"Didn't you feel dreadfully when the first cut came?" askedMeg, with a shiver.
"I took a last look at my hair while the man got his things,and that was the end of it. I never snivel over trifles like that.I will confess, though, I felt queer when I saw the dear old hairlaid out on the table, and felt only the short rough ends of my head.It almost seemed as if I'd an arm or leg off. The woman saw me lookat it, and picked out a long lock for me to keep. I'll give it toyou, Marmee, just to remember past glories by, for a crop is socomfortable I don't think I shall ever have a mane again."
Mrs. March folded the wavy chestnut lock, and laid it away witha short gray one in her desk. She only said, "Thank you, deary,"but something in her face made the girls change the subject, andtalk as cheerfully as they could about Mr. Brooke's kindness, theprospect of a fine day tomorrow, and the happy times they would havewhen Father came home to be nursed.
No one wanted to go to bed when at ten o'clock Mrs. March putby the last finished job, and said, "Come girls." Beth went to thepiano and played the father's favorite hymn. All began bravely, butbroke down one by one till Beth was left alone, singing with all herheart, for to her music was always a sweet consoler.
"Go to bed and don't talk, for we must be up early and shallneed all the sleep we can get. Good night, my darlings," said Mrs.March, as the hymn ended, for no one cared to try another.
They kissed her quietly, and went to bed as silently as if thedear invalid lay in the next room. Beth and Amy soon fell asleep inspite of the great trouble, but Meg lay awake, thinking the mostserious thoughts she had ever known in her short life. Jo laymotionless, and her sister fancied that she was asleep, till a stifledsob made her exclaim, as she touched a wet cheek...
"Jo, dear, what is it? Are you crying about father?"
"No, not now."
"My...My hair!" burst out poor Jo, trying vainly to smotherher emotion in the pillow.
It did not seem at all comical to Meg, who kissed and caressedthe afflicted heroine in the tenderest manner.
"I'm not sorry," protested Jo, with a choke. "I'd do it againtomorrow, if I could. It's only the vain part of me that goes andcries in this silly way. Don't tell anyone, it's all over now. Ithought you were asleep, so I just made a little private moan for myone beauty. How came you to be awake?"
"I can't sleep, I'm so anxious," said Meg.
"Think about something pleasant, and you'll soon drop off."
"I tried it, but felt wider awake than ever."
"What did you think of?"
"Handsome faces--eyes particularly," answered Meg, smiling toherself in the dark.
"What color do you like best?"
"Brown, that is, sometimes. Blue are lovely."
Jo, laughed, and Meg sharply ordered her not to talk, thenamiably promised to make her hair curl, and fell asleep to dream ofliving in her castle in the air.
The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very stillas a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlet here,settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at eachunconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and topray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter. As she lifted thecurtain to look out into the dreary night, the moon broke suddenlyfrom behind the clouds and shone upon her like a bright, benignantface, which seemed to whisper in the silence," Be comforted, dearsoul! There is always light behind the clouds."