"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.
Nobody spoke 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
"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 to enjoy
myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone again.
"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, fussy old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and
worries you till you you're ready to fly out the window or cry?"
"It's naughty to fret, 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 any one 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."