A Merry Christmas

Jo was the first to wake in the grey dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when a little sock fell down because it was so crammed with goodies. Then she remembered her mother's promise, and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guide-book for any pilgrim going the long journey. She woke Meg with a `Merry Christmas', and bade her see what was under her pillow. A green- covered book appeared with the same picture inside, and a few words written their mother, which made their one present very precious their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke, to rummage a find their little books also - one, dove-coloured, the other blue; and all sat looking at and talking about them, while the east grew rosy with the coming day.

In spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet a pious nature, which unconsciously influenced her sister especially Jo, who loved her very tenderly, and obeyed her because her advice was so gently given.

`Girls,' said Meg seriously, looking from the tumbled head beside her to the two little night-capped ones in the room beyond, `Mother wants us to read and love and mind these books, and we must begin at once. We used to be faithful about it; but since Father went away, and all this war trouble unsettled us, we have neglected many things. You can do as you please; but I shall keep my book on the table here, and read a little every morning as soon as I wake for I know it will do me good, and help me through the day.'

Then she opened her new book and began to read. Jo put her arm round her, and, leaning cheek to cheek, read also with the quiet expression so seldom seen on her restless face.

`How good Meg is! Come, Amy, let's do as they do. I'll help you with the hard words, and they'll explain things if we don't understand,' whispered Beth, very much impressed by the pretty books and her sisters' example. `I'm glad mine is blue,' said Amy; and then the rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned, and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting.

`Where is Mother?' asked Meg, as she and Jo ran down to thank her for their gifts, half an hour later. `Goodness only knows. Some poor creeter come a-beggin', and your ma went straight off to see what was needed. There never was such a woman for givin' away vittles and drink, clothes, and firin',' replied Hannah, who had lived with the family since Meg was born, and was considered by them all more as a friend than a servant.

`She will be back soon, I think; so fry your cake, and have everything ready,' said Meg, looking over the presents which were collected in a basket and kept under the sofa, ready to be produced at the proper time. `Why, where is Amy's bottle of cologne?' she added, as the little flask did not appear. `She took it out a minute ago, and went off wit it to put a ribbon on it, or some such notion,' replied Jo dancing about the room to take the first stiffness off the new army-slippers.

`How nice my handkerchiefs look, don't they! Hannah washed and ironed them for me, and I marked them a myself,' said Beth, looking proudly at the somewhat uneven letters which had cost her such labour.

`Bless the child! she's gone and put "Mother" on these instead of "M. March". How funny!' cried Jo, taking up one.

`Isn't it right? I thought it was better to do it so, because Meg's initials are `M. M.', and I don't want anyone to use these but Marmee,' said Beth, looking troubled.

`It's all right, dear, and a very pretty idea - quite sensible, too, for no one can ever mistake them now. It will please her very much, I know,' said Meg, with a frown for Jo and a smile for Beth.

`There's Mother. Hide the basket, quick!' cried Jo, as door slammed, and steps sounded in the hall.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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