`Oh, dear, how hard it does seem to take up our packs and jog on,' sighed Meg, the morning after the party; for, now the holidays were over, the week of merry-making did not fit her for going on easily with the task she never liked.
`I wish it was Christmas or New Year all the time; wouldn't it be fun?' answered Jo, yawning dismally.
`We shouldn't enjoy ourselves half so much as we do now. But it does seem so nice to have little suppers and bouquets, and go to parties, and drive home, and read and rest, and not work. It's like other people, you know, and I always envy girls who do such things; I'm so fond of luxury,' said Meg, trying to decide which of two shabby gowns was the least shabby.
`Well, we can't have it, so don't let us grumble, but shoulder our bundles and trudge along as cheerfully as Marmee does.
`I'm sure Aunt March is a regular Old Man of the Sea to me, but I suppose when I've learnt to carry her without complaining, she will tumble off, or get so light that I shan't mind her.'
This idea tickled Jo's fancy, and put her in good spirits; but Meg didn't brighten, for her burden, consisting of four spoilt children, seemed heavier than ever. She hadn't heart enough even to make herself pretty, as usual, by putting on a blue neck-ribbon, and dressing her hair in the most becoming way.
`Where's the use of looking nice, when no one sees me but those cross midgets, and no one cares whether I'm pretty or not?' she muttered, shutting her drawer with a jerk. `I shall have to toil and moil all my days, with only little bits of fun now and then, and get old and ugly and sour, because I'm poor, and can't enjoy my life as other girls do. It's a shame!'
So Meg went down, wearing an injured look, and wasn't at all agreeable at breakfast-time. Everyone seemed rather out of sorts, and inclined to croak. Beth had a headache, and lay on the sofa, trying to comfort herself with the cat and three kittens; Amy was fretting because her lessons were not learned, and she couldn't find her rubbers; Jo would whistle and make a great racket getting ready; Mrs. March was very busy trying to finish a letter which must go at once; and Hannah had the grumps, for being up late didn't suit her.
`There never was such a cross family!' cried Jo, losing her temper when she had upset an inkstand, broken both bootlacings, and sat down upon her hat.
`You're the crossest person in it!' returned Amy, washing out the sum, that was all wrong, with the tears that had fallen on her slate.
`Beth, if you don't keep these horrid cats down cellar I'll have them drowned,' exclaimed Meg, angrily, as she tried to get rid of the kitten, which had scrambled up her back, and stuck like a burr just out of reach.
Jo laughed, Meg scolded, Beth implored, and Amy wailed, because she couldn't remember how much nine times twelve was.
`Girls, girls, do be quiet one minute! I must get this off by the early mail, and you drive me distracted with your worry,' cried Mrs. March, crossing out the third spoilt sentence in her letter.
There was a momentary lull, broken by Hannah, who stalked in, laid two hot turnovers on the table, and stalked out again. These turnovers were an institution; and the girls called them `muffs', for they had no others, and found the hot pies very comforting to their hands on cold mornings. Hannah never forgot to make them, no matter how busy or grumpy she might be, for the walk was long and bleak; the poor things got no other lunch, and were seldom home before two.
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