Aunt March Settles The Question

Like bees swarming after their queen, mother and daughters hovered about Mr. March the next day, neglecting everything to look at, wait upon, and listen to the new invalid, who was in a fair way to be killed by kindness. As he sat propped up in a big chair by Beth's sofa, with the other three close by, and Hannah popping in her head now and then to "peek at the dear man", nothing seemed needed to complete their happiness. But something was needed, and the elder ones felt it, though none confessed the fact. Mr. and Mrs. March looked at one another with an anxious expression, as their eyes followed Meg. Jo had sudden fits of sobriety, and was seen to shake her fist at Mr. Brooke's umbrella, which had been left in the hall; Meg was absent-minded, shy, and silent, started when the bell rang, and coloured when John's name was mentioned; Amy said, `Everyone seemed waiting for something, and couldn't settle down, which was queer, since Father was safe at home,' and Beth innocently wondered why their neighbours didn't run over as usual.

Laurie went by in the afternoon, and, seeing Meg at the window, seemed suddenly possessed with a melodramatic fit, for he fell down upon one knee in the snow, beat his breast, tore his hair, and clasped his hands imploringly, as if begging some boon; and when Meg told him to behave himself and go away, he wrung imaginary tears out of his handkerchief, and staggered round the corner as if in utter despair.

`What does the goose mean?' said Meg, laughing, and trying to look unconscious.

`He's showing you how your John will go on by and by. Touching, isn't it?' answered Jo, scornfully.

`Don't say my John, it isn't proper or true'; but Meg's voice lingered over the words as if they sounded pleasant to her. `Please don't plague me, Jo; I've told you I don't care much about him, and there isn't to be anything said, but we are all to be friendly, and go on as before.'

`We can't, for something has been said, and Laurie's mischief has spoilt you for me. I see it, and so does Mother; you are not like your old self a bit, and seem ever so far away from me. I don't mean to plague you, and will bear it like a man, but I do wish it was all settled. I hate to wait; so if you mean ever to do it, make haste and have it over quickly,' said Jo, pettishly.

`I can't say or do anything till he speaks, and he won't, because Father said I was too young,' began Meg, bending over her work, with a queer little smile, which suggested that she did not quite agree with her father on that point.

`If he did speak, you wouldn't know what to say, but would cry or blush, or let him have his own way, instead of giving a good, decided No.'

`I'm not so silly and weak as you think. I know just what I should say, for I've planned it all, so I needn't be taken unawares; there's no knowing what may happen, and I wish to be prepared.'

Jo couldn't help smiling at the important air which Meg had unconsciously assumed, and which was as becoming as the pretty colour varying in her cheeks.

`Would you mind telling me what you'd say?' asked Jo, more respectfully.

`Not at all; you are sixteen now, quite old enough to be my confidante, and my experience will be useful to you by-and-by, perhaps, in your own affairs of this sort.'

`Don't mean to have any; it's fun to watch other people philander, but I should feel like a fool doing it myself,' said Jo, looking alarmed at the thought.

`I think not, if you liked anyone very much, and he liked you.' Meg spoke as if to herself, and glanced out at the lane, where she had often seen lovers walking together in the summer twilight.

`I thought you were going to tell your speech to that man,' said Jo, rudely shortening her sister's little reverie.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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