In order that we may start afresh and go to Meg's wedding with free minds, it will be well
to begin with a little gossip about the Marches. And here let me premise that if any of the
elders think there is too much 'lovering' in the story, as I fear they may (I'm not afraid the
young folks will make that objection), I can only say with Mrs. March, "What can you
expect when I have four gay girls in the house, and a dashing young neighbor over the
The three years that have passed have brought but few changes to the quiet family. The
war is over, and Mr. March safely at home, busy with his books and the small parish
which found in him a minister by nature as by grace, a quiet, studious man, rich in the
wisdom that is better than learning, the charity which calls all mankind `brother', the
piety that blossoms into character, making it august and lovely.
These attributes, in spite of poverty and the strict integrity which shut him out from the
more worldly successes, attracted to him many admirable persons, as naturally as sweet
herbs draw bees, and as naturally he gave them the honey into which fifty years of hard
experience had distilled no bitter drop. Earnest young men found the gray-headed scholar
as young at heart as they, thoughtful or troubled women instinctively brought their doubts
to him, sure of finding the gentlest sympathy, the wisest counsel. Sinners told their sins to
the pure-hearted old man and were both rebuked and saved. Gifted men found a
companion in him. Ambitious men caught glimpses of nobler ambitions than their own,
and even worldings confessed that his beliefs were beautiful and true, although `they
To outsiders the five energetic women seemed to rule the house, and so they did in many
things, but the quiet scholar, sitting among his books, was still the head of the family, the
household conscience, anchor, and comforter, for to him the busy, anxious women
always turned in troublous times, finding him, in the truest sense of those sacred words,
husband and father.
The girls gave their hearts into their mother's keeping, their souls into their father's, and
to both parents, who lived and labored so faithfully for them, they gave a love that grew
with their growth and bound them tenderly together by the sweetest tie which blesses life
and outlives death.
Mrs. March is as brisk and cheery, though rather grayer, than when we saw her last, and
just now so absorbed in Meg's affairs that the hospitals and homes still full of wounded
`boys' and soldiers' widows, decidedly miss the motherly missionary's visits.
John Brooke did his duty manfully for a year, got wounded, was sent home, and not
allowed to return. He received no stars or bars, but he deserved them, for he cheerfully
risked all he had, and life and love are very precious when both are in full bloom.
Perfectly resigned to his discharge, he devoted himself to getting well, preparing for
business, and earning a home for Meg. With the good sense and sturdy independence that
characterized him, he refused Mr. Laurence's more generous offers, and accepted the
place of bookkeeper, feeling better satisfied to begin with an honestly earned salary than
by running any risks with borrowed money.
Meg had spent the time in working as well as waiting, growing womanly in character,
wise in housewifely arts, and prettier than ever, for love is a great beautifier. She had her