`I feel as if there had been an earthquake,' said Jo, as their neighbours went home to breakfast, leaving them to rest and refresh themselves.

`It seems as if half the house was gone,' added Meg, forlornly.

Beth opened her lips to say something, but could only point to the pile of nicely minded hose which lay on Mother's table, showing that even in her last hurried moments she had thought and worked for them. It was a little thing, but it went straight to their hearts; and, in spite of their brave resolutions, they all broke down and cried bitterly.

Hannah wisely allowed them to relieve their feelings, and, when the shower showed signs of clearing up, she came to the rescue, armed with a coffee-pot.

`Now, my dear young ladies, remember what your ma said, and don't fret. Come and have a cup of coffee all round, and then let's fall to work and be a credit to the family.'

Coffee was a treat, and Hannah showed great tact in making it that morning. No one could resist her persuasive nods, or the fragrant invitation issuing from the nose of the coffee-pot. They drew up to the table, exchanged their handkerchiefs for napkins, and in ten minutes were all right again.

`"Hope and keep busy", that's the motto for us, so let's see who will remember it best. I shall go to Aunt March, as usual. Oh, won't she lecture though!' said Jo, as she sipped with returning spirit.

`I shall go to my Kings, though I'd much rather stay at home and attend to things here,' said Meg, wishing she hadn't made her eyes so red.

`No need of that, Beth and I can keep house perfectly well,' put in Amy, with an important air.

`Hannah will tell us what to do, and we'll have everything nice when you come home,' added Beth, getting out her mop and dish-tub without delay.

`I think anxiety is very interesting,' observed Amy, eating sugar, pensively.

The girls couldn't help laughing, and felt better for it, though Meg shook her head at the young lady who could find consolation in a sugar-bowl.

The sight of the turnovers made Jo sober again; and when the two went out to their daily tasks, they looked sorrowfully back at the window where they were accustomed to see their mother's face. It was gone; but Beth had remembered the little household ceremony, and there she was, nodding away at them like a rosy-faced mandarin.

`That's so like my Beth!' said Jo, waving her hat, with a grateful face. `Good-bye, Meggy; I hope the Kings won't trail today. Don't fret about Father, dear,' she added, as they parted.

`And I hope Aunt March won't croak. Your hair is becoming, and it looks very boyish and nice,' returned Meg, trying not to smile at the curly head, which looked comically small on her tall sister's shoulders.

`That's my only comfort'; and, touching her hat, à la Laurie, away went Jo, feeling like a shorn sheep on a wintry day.

News from their father comforted the girls very much; for, though dangerously ill, the presence of the best and tenderest of nurses had already done him good. Mr. Brooke sent a bulletin every day, and, as the head of the family, Meg insisted on reading the dispatches, which grew more and more cheering as the week passed. At first, everyone was eager to write, and plump envelopes were carefully poked into the letter-box by one or other of the sisters, who felt rather important with their Washington correspondence.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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