Author: Louisa May Alcott
CHAPTER TWO: A MERRY CHRISTMAS
Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at
the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago,
when her little sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she
remembered her mother’s promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a
little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of
the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on
a long journey. She woke Meg with a “Merry Christmas,” and bade her see what was
under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared, with the same picture inside, and a
few words written by their mother, which made their one present very precious in their
eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage and find their little books also, one
dove-colored, the other blue, and all sat looking at and talking about them, while the
east grew rosy with the coming day.
“Where is Mother?” asked Meg, as she and Jo ran down to thank her for their gifts, half
an hour later.
“Goodness only knows. Some poor creeter came a-beggin’, and your ma went straight
off to see what was needed. There never was such a woman for givin’ away vittles and
drink, clothes and firin’,” replied Hannah, who had lived with the family since Meg was
born, and was considered by them all more as a friend than a servant.
“She will be back soon, I think, so fry your cakes, and have everything ready,” said
Meg, looking over the presents which were collected in a basket and kept under the
sofa, ready to be produced at the proper time.
“There’s Mother. Hide the basket, quick!” cried Jo, as a door slammed and steps
sounded in the hall.
“Merry Christmas, little daughters! I’m glad you began at once, and hope you will keep
on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor
woman with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from
freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy
came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your
breakfast as a Christmas present?”
They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a minute no one
spoke, only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously, “I’m so glad you came before we
They were soon ready, and the procession set out. Fortunately it was early, and they
went through back streets, so few people saw them, and no one laughed at the queer
A poor, bare, miserable room it was, with broken windows, no fire, ragged bedclothes, a
sick mother, wailing baby, and a group of pale, hungry children cuddled under one old
quilt, trying to keep warm. How the big eyes stared and the blue lips smiled as the girls
“Ach, mein Gott! It is good angels come to us!” said the poor woman, crying for joy.
“Funny angels in hoods and mittens,” said Jo, and set them to laughing.
In a few minutes it really did seem as if kind spirits had been at work there. Hannah,
who had carried wood, made a fire, and stopped up the broken panes with old hats and
her own cloak. Mrs. March gave the mother tea and gruel, and comforted her with
promises of help, while she dressed the little baby as tenderly as if it had been her own.
The girls meantime spread the table, set the children round the fire, and fed them like
so many hungry birds, laughing, talking, and trying to understand the funny broken
“Das ist gut!” “Die Engel-kinder!” cried the poor things as they ate and warmed their
purple hands at the comfortable blaze. The girls had never been called angel children
before, and thought it very agreeable, especially Jo, who had been considered a ‘Sancho’
ever since she was born. That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn’t get
any of it. And when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all
the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts
and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.