by Louisa May Alcott
"If you mean libel, I'd say so, and not talk about labels, as
if Papa was a pickle bottle," advised Jo, laughing.
"I know what I mean, and you needn't be statirical about it.
It's proper to use good words, and improve your vocabilary,"
returned Amy, with dignity.
"Don't peck at one another, children. Don't you wish we
had the money Papa lost when we were little, Jo? Dear me! How
happy and good we'd be, if we had no worries!" said Meg, who
could remember better times.
"You said the other day you thought we were a deal happier
than the King children, for they were fighting and fretting all
the time, in spite of their money."
"So I did, Beth. Well, I think we are. For though we do
have to work, we make fun of ourselves, and are a pretty jolly
set, as Jo would say."
"Jo does use such slang words!" observed Amy, with a
reproving look at the long figure stretched on the rug.
Jo immediately sat up, put her hands in her pockets, and
began to whistle.
"Don't, Jo. It's so boyish!"
"That's why I do it."
"I detest rude, unladylike girls!"
"I hate affected, niminy-piminy chits!"
"Birds in their little nests agree," sang Beth, the
peacemaker, with such a funny face that both sharp voices
softened to a laugh, and the "pecking" ended for that time.
"Really, girls, you are both to be blamed," said Meg,
beginning to lecture in her elder-sisterly fashion."You are old
enough to leave off boyish tricks, and to behave better,
Josephine. It didn't matter so much when you were a little
girl, but now you are so tall, and turn up your hair, you should
remember that you are a young lady."
"I'm not! And if turning up my hair makes me one, I'll
wear it in two tails till I'm twenty," cried Jo, pulling off
her net, and shaking down a chestnut mane. "I hate to think
I've got to grow up, and be Miss March, and wear long gowns,
and look as prim as a China Aster! It's bad enough to be a
girl, anyway, when I like boy's games and work and manners! I
can't get over my disappointment in not being a boy. And it's
worse than ever now, for I'm dying to go and fight with Papa.
And I can only stay home and knit, like a poky old woman!"
And Jo shook the blue army sock till the needles rattled
like castanets, and her ball bounded across the room.
"Poor Jo! It's too bad, but it can't be helped. So you
must try to be contented with making your name boyish, and
playing brother to us girls," said Beth, stroking the rough
head with a hand that all the dish washing and dusting in the
world could not make ungentle in its touch.
"As for you, Amy," continued Meg, "you are altogether
to particular and prim. Your airs are funny now, but you'll
grow up an affected little goose, if you don't take care. I
I like your nice manners and refined ways of speaking, when
you don't try to be elegant. But your absurd words are as bad
as Jo's slang."
"If Jo is a tomboy and Amy a goose, what am I, please?"
asked Beth, ready to share the lecture.
"You're a dear, and nothing else," answered Meg warmly,
and no one contradicted her, for the `Mouse' was the pet of the
As young readers like to know `how people look', we will
take this moment to give them a little sketch of the four
sisters, who sat knitting away in the twilight, while the
December snow fell quietly without, and the fire crackled
cheerfully within. It was a comfortable room, though the carpet
was faded and the furniture very plain, for a good picture or
two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses, chrysanthemums
and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a pleasant
atmosphere of home peace pervaded it.