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by Louisa May Alcott
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled
Jo, lying on the rug.
"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at
her old dress.
"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of
pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy,
with an injured sniff.
"We've got Father and Mother, and each other," said Beth
contentedly from her corner.
The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened
at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly,
"We haven't got Father, and shall not have him for a long time."
She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking
of Father far away, where the fighting was.
Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone,
"You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this
Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone;
and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when
our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can
make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am
afraid I don't." And Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully
of all the pretty things she wanted.
"But I don't think the little we should spend would do any
good. We've each got a dollar, and the army wouldn't be much helped
by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from Mother or
you, but I do want to buy UNDINE AND SINTRAM for myself. I've
wanted it so long," said Jo, who was a bookworm.
"I planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, with a
little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth brush and kettle
"I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils. I
really need them," said Amy decidedly.
"Mother didn't say anything about our money, and she won't
wish us to give up everything. Let's each buy what we want, and
have a little fun. I'm sure we work hard enough to earn it," cried
Jo, examining the heels of her shoes in a gentlemanly manner.
"I know I do--teaching those tiresome children nearly all
day, when I'm longing to enjoy myself at home," began Meg, in the
complaining tone again.
"You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo.
"How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy
old lady, who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries
you till you you're ready to fly out the window or cry?"
"It's naughty to fret, but I do think washing dishes and
keeping things tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me
cross, and my hands get so stiff, I can't practice well at all."
And Beth looked at her rough hands with a sigh that any one could
hear that time.
"I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy, "for
you don't have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague
you if you don't know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and
label your father if he isn't rich, and insult you when your nose