23. CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
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 colored 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 neighbors 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 on 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
"He's showing you how your John will go on by-and-by.
Touchin, 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."