Aunt March Settles the Question
Like bees swarming after their queen, mother and daughters hovered about Mr. March
the next day, neglecting everything to look at, wait upon, and listen to the new invalid,
who was in a fair way to be killed by kindness. As he sat propped up in a big chair by
Beth's sofa, with the other three close by, and Hannah popping in her head now and then
`to peek at the dear man', nothing seemed needed to complete their happiness. But
something was needed, and the elder ones felt it, though none confessed the fact. Mr. and
Mrs. March looked at one another with an anxious expression, as their eyes followed
Meg. Jo had sudden fits of sobriety, and was seen to shake her fist at Mr. Brooke's
umbrella, which had been left in the hall. Meg was absent-minded, shy, and silent, started
when the bell rang, and colored when John's name was mentioned. Amy said, "Everyone
seemed waiting for something, and couldn't settle down, which was queer, since Father
was safe at home," and Beth innocently wondered why their neighbors didn't run over as
Laurie went by in the afternoon, and seeing Meg at the window, seemed suddenly
possessed with a melodramatic fit, for he fell down on one knee in the snow, beat his
breast, tore his hair, and clasped his hands imploringly, as if begging some boon. And
when Meg told him to behave himself and go away, he wrung imaginary tears out of his
handkerchief, and staggered round the corner as if in utter despair.
"What does the goose mean?" said Meg, laughing and trying to look unconscious.
"He's showing you how your John will go on by-and-by. Touchin, isn't it?" answered Jo
"Don't say my John, it isn't proper or true," but Meg's voice lingered over the words as if
they sounded pleasant to her. "Please don't plague me, Jo, I've told you I don't care much
about him, and there isn't to be anything said, but we are all to be friendly, and go on as
"We can't, for something has been said, and Laurie's mischief has spoiled you for me. I
see it, and so does Mother. You are not like your old self a bit, and seem ever so far away
from me. I don't mean to plague you and will bear it like a man, but I do wish it was all
settled. I hate to wait, so if you mean ever to do it, make haste and have it over quickly,"
said Jo pettishly.
"I can't say anything till he speaks, and he won't, because Father said I was too young,"
began Meg, bending over her work with a queer little smile, which suggested that she did
not quite agree with her father on that point.
"If he did speak, you wouldn't know what to say, but would cry or blush, or let him have
his own way, instead of giving a good, decided no."
"I'm not so silly and weak as you think. I know just what I should say, for I've planned it
all, so I needn't be taken unawares. There's no knowing what may happen, and I wished
to be prepared."
Jo couldn't help smiling at the important air which Meg had unconsciously assumed and
which was as becoming as the pretty color varying in her cheeks.