36. CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX
"Is this what made you so unhappy in the autumn, Beth? You
did not feel it then, and keep it to yourself so long, did you?"
asked Jo, refusing to see or say that it was best, but glad to
know that Laurie had no part in Beth's trouble.
"Yes, I gave up hoping then, but I didn't like to own it.
I tried to think it was a sick fancy, and would not let it
trouble anyone. But when I saw you all so well and strong and
full of happy plans, it was hard to feel that I could never be
like you, and then I was miserable, Jo."
"Oh, Beth, and you didn't tell me, didn't let me comfort and
help you? How could you shut me out, bear it all alone?"
Jo's voice was full of tender reproach, and her heart ached
to think of the solitary struggle that must have gone on while
Beth learned to say goodbye to health, love, and live, and take
up her cross so cheerfully.
"Perhaps it was wrong, but I tried to do right. I wasn't sure,
no one said anything, and I hoped I was mistaken. It would have
been selfish to frighten you all when Marmee was so anxious about
Meg, and Amy away, and you so happy with Laurie--at least I thought
"And I thought you loved him, Beth, and I went away because
I couldn't," cried Jo, glad to say all the truth.
Beth looked so amazed at the idea that Jo smiled in spite
of her pain, and added softly, "Then you didn't, dearie? I was
afraid it was so, and imagined your poor little heart full of
lovelornity all that while."
"Why, Jo, how could I, when he was so fond of you?" asked
Beth, as innocently as a child. "I do love him dearly. He is
so good to me, how can I help It? But he could never be anything
to me but my brother. I hope he truly will be, sometime."