24. CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
Mrs. March is as brisk and cheery, though rather grayer, than
when we saw her last, and just now so absorbed in Meg's affairs that
the hospitals and homes still full of wounded `boys' and soldiers'
widows, decidedly miss the motherly missionary's visits.
John Brooke did his duty manfully for a year, got wounded, was
sent home, and not allowed to return. He received no stars or bars,
but he deserved them, for he cheerfully risked all he had, and life
and love are very precious when both are in full bloom. Perfectly
resigned to his discharge, he devoted himself to getting well,
preparing for business, and earning a home for Meg. With the good
sense and sturdy independence that characterized him, he refused
Mr. Laurence's more generous offers, and accepted the place of
bookkeeper, feeling better satisfied to begin with an honestly earned
salary than by running any risks with borrowed money.
Meg had spent the time in working as well as waiting, growing
womanly in character, wise in housewifely arts, and prettier than
ever, for love is a great beautifier. She had her girlish ambitions
and hopes, and felt some disappointment at the humble way in which
the new life must begin. Ned Moffat had just married Sallie Gardiner,
and Meg couldn't help contrasting their fine house and carriage,
many gifts, and splendid outfit with her own, and secretly wishing
she could have the same. But somehow envy and discontent soon
vanished when she thought of all the patient love and labor John had
put into the little home awaiting her, and when they sat together in
the twilight, talking over their small plans, the future always grew
so beautiful and bright that she forgot Sallie's splendor and felt
herself the richest, happiest girl in Christendom.
Jo never went back to Aunt March, for the old lady took such
a fancy to AMy that she bribed her with the offer of drawing lessons
from one of the best teachers going, and for the sake of this
advantage, Amy would have served a far harder mistress. So she gave her
mornings to duty, her afternoons to pleasure, and prospered finely.
Jo meantime devoted herself to literature and Beth, who remained
delicate long after the fever was a thing of the past. Not an
invalid exactly, but never again the rosy, healthy creature she had
been, yet always hopeful, happy, and serene, and busy with the quiet
duties she loved, everyone's friend, and an angel in the house, long
before those who loved her most had learned to know it.