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Pleasant Meadows
Like sunshine after a storm were the peaceful weeks which followed. The invalids
improved rapidly, and Mr. March began to talk or returning early in the new year. Beth
was soon able to lie on the study sofa all day, amusing herself with the well-beloved cats
at first, and in time with doll's sewing, which had fallen sadly behindhand. Her once
active limbs were so stiff and feeble that Jo took her for a daily airing about the house in
her strong arms. Meg cheerfully blackened and burned her white hands cooking delicate
messes for `the dear', while Amy, a loyal slave of the ring, celebrated her return by giving
away as many of her treasures as she could prevail on her sisters to accept.
As Christmas approached, the usual mysteries began to haunt the house, and Jo
frequently convulsed the family by proposing utterly impossible or magnificently absurd
ceremonies, in honor of this unusually merry Christmas. Laurie was equally
impracticable, and would have had bonfires, skyrockets, and triumphal arches, if he had
had his own way. After many skirmishes and snubbings, the ambitious pair were
considered effectually quenched and went about with forlorn faces, which were rather
belied by explosions of laughter when the two got together.
Several days of unusually mild weather fitly ushered in a splendid Christmas Day.
Hannah `felt in her bones' that it was going to be an unusually fine day, and she proved
herself a true prophetess, for everybody and everything seemed bound to produce a grand
success. To begin with, Mr. March wrote that he should soon be with them, then Beth felt
uncommonly well that morning, and, being dressed in her mother's gift, a soft crimson
merino wrapper, was borne in high triumph to the window to behold the offering of Jo
and Laurie. The Unquenchables had done their best to be worthy of the name, for like
elves they had worked by night and conjured up a comical surprise. Out in the garden
stood a stately snow maiden, crowned with holly, bearing a basket of fruit and flowers in
one hand, a great roll of music in the other, a perfect rainbow of an Afghan round her
chilly shoulders, and a Christmas carol issuing from her lips on a pink paper streamer.
God bless you, dear Queen Bess!
May nothing you dismay,
But health and peace and happiness
Be yours, this Christmas day.
Here's fruit to feed our busy bee,
And flowers for her nose.
Here's music for her pianee,
An afghan for her toes,
A portrait of Joanna, see,
By Raphael No. 2,
Who laboured with great industry
To make it fair and true.
Accept a ribbon red, I beg,
For Madam Purrer's tail,