"Little Women": Act Two

Last modified: Mon Dec 1 12:47:58 1997


Adapted by Kevin M. Cunningham, kcunning@mit.edu, from the book by Louisa May Alcott.

Scene 16: Letters (November)

The girls send a letter to their absent Mother. Lu hands it to Meg.

MEG: " 'My dearest Mother: It's impossible to tell you how happy your last letter made us, for the news was so good we couldn't help laughing and crying over it. How very kind Mr. Brooke is, and how fortunate that Mr. Laurence's business detains him near you so long. Give my dearest love to Father, ever your own ... MEG' " (she hands the letter to Jo)

JO: (after smelling the sweetly scented paper)" 'My precious MARMEE: Three cheers for dear Father! Brooke was a trump to telegraph right off, and let us know the minute Father was better. My hair is already growing back a little. Give Father my lovingest hug that ever was, and kiss yourself a dozen times for your ... TOPSY-TURVY JO' " (she hands the letter to Beth)

BETH: " 'Dear Mother, There is only room for me to send my love, and some pressed pansies I have been keeping safe in the house for Father to see. Everyone is very kind, and we are -- (finally succumbing to Amy's impatience) Amy wants the rest of the page, so I must stop. Oh, do come soon to your loving ... LITTLE BETH' " (she hands the letter to Amy)

AMY: " 'Ma Chere Mamma, We are all well. I do my lessons always and never corroberate the girls--Meg says I mean contradick so I put in both words and you can take the properest. Meg is a great comfort to me and lets me have jelly every night at tea. It's so good for me, Jo says, because it keeps me sweet tempered. Adieu. Your affectionate daughter ... AMY CURTIS MARCH' "

Jo snatches the letter, and gives it to Meg, who folds it to send and passes it along to Lu. The girls smile, then the LIGHTS BLACKOUT.


Scene 17/18/19: Little Faithful/Dark Days/Amy's Will (November/December)

The LIGHTS FADEUP on the parlor ten days after Marmee's departure. Meg sits sewing, Jo writing. Beth enters.

BETH: "Meg, I wish you'd go and see the Hummels. You know Mother told us not to forget them."

MEG: (rocking comfortably as she sews) "I'm too tired to go this afternoon."

BETH: "Can't you, Jo?"

JO: "Too stormy for me with my cold."

BETH: "I thought it was almost well."

JO: "It's well enough for me to go out with Laurie, but not well enough to go to the Hummels'." (she laughs, but looks a little ashamed of her inconsistency)

MEG: "Why don't you go yourself?"

BETH: (earnestly) "I have been every day, but the baby is sick, and I don't know what to do for it. It just gets sicker and sicker, and I think you or Hannah ought to go."

MEG: "I promise I'll go tomorrow."

JO: (apologetically) "I'd go but I want to finish my writing."

BETH: "My head aches and I'm tired, so I thought maybe some of you would go."

There is no answer. The others return to their work. Beth looks at them, pauses, then quietly puts on her hood, and goes out into the chilly air with a heavy head and a grieved look in her patient eyes. The LIGHTS FADEOUT slowly.


The LIGHTS FADEUP abuptly. Beth stands at the door, and Jo meets her.

JO: "Christopher Columbus! What's the matter?"

BETH: (quickly putting out her hand as if to warn her off) "You've had the scarlet fever, haven't you?"

JO: "Years ago, when Meg did. Why?'

BETH: "Oh, Jo, the baby's dead!"

JO: "Mrs. Hummel's?"

BETH: (with a sob) "It died in my lap before she got home."

JO: "My poor dear, how dreadful for you! I ought to have gone." (she wants to takes her sister in her arms, but Beth keeps her at bay out of concern for her health)

BETH: (terrified) "No don't come near me! (relieved somewhat) It wasn't dreadful, Jo, only so sad! I saw in a minute it was sicker, but Lottchen said her mother had gone for a doctor, so I took Baby and let Lotty rest. It seemed asleep, but all of a sudden it gave a little cry and trembled, and then lay very still, and I knew it was dead." (she cries)

JO: "Don't cry, dear!"

BETH: "I think I'll have the fever now too."

JO: (with a frightened look) "No, you won't! Oh, Beth, if you should get sick I could never forgive myself! What'll we do? If only Mother was at home!"

BETH: (anxiously) "Don't let Amy come. She never had it, and I'd hate to give it to her."

JO: "Maybe, well -- we could send Amy off to Aunt March's for a spell, to keep her out of harm's way."

BETH: "All right."

JO: "Now do come lie down, dear."

BETH: "Yes, yes. I'm awfully tired."

Beth slowly starts into the room, Jo sighs with relief. But then Beth falls headlong to the floor. Jo screams and kneels by Beth's side.

JO: "Beth!"

The LIGHTS BLACKOUT.


The LIGHTS FADEUP slowly on the sickbed, where Meg, Jo, and Hannah watch.

MEG: "Don't you think we ought to let Mother know? It's been weeks now. I feel so anxious and guilty writing letters to them that make no mention of Beth's illness."

HANNAH: "Tush, I won't hear of Mrs. March bein' told, and worried just for sech a trifle. You know the doctor said that Beth will only have the fever lightly."

JO: (coming forward) "But last night while I was watching, Beth didn't even recognize me, and called for Mother. Please, Hannah, can't we write the truth to Marmee?"

HANNAH: (a little troubled by the report, and by what she sees, but trying to cover it up) "Well, I'll think about it -- but you know that the last letter from Washington told of a relapse for Mr. March, so they can't be thinking of coming home for a long while."

MEG: "May I write up a telegram anyway, in case we do need to send one?"

HANNAH: (glad, but reluctant to admit it) "All right, but I'm sure we won't need to ..."

Just then, Beth gives a big sigh, then a cough. Meg and Hannah look at each other with concern, but there is nothing they can do but wait. The LIGHTS CROSSFADE quickly to Aunt March's, but remain DIM on the sickbed scene.


At Aunt March's, Amy has been having a hard time. She feels her exile deeply, and for the first time in her life, realizes how much she is beloved and petted at home. Just now Laurie is visiting her.

AMY: (rather gravely) "Sit down. I want to consult you about a very serious matter. (taking up a piece of paper) I want you to read this, please, and tell me if it's legal and right. I felt I ought to do it, for life is uncertain and I don't want any ill feeling over my tomb."

Laurie bites his lips, and turning a little from the pensive speaker, reads the document, with praiseworthy gravity, considering the spelling.

LAURIE: (reading) " 'MY LAST WILL AND TESTIMENT' (surprised at the morbid subject matter) Now, Amy, I really think --"

AMY: (imperiously) "Please!--"

LAURIE: (continuing after a sigh) " 'I, Amy Curtis March, being in my sane mind, go give and bequeethe all my earthly property--viz.to wit:--namely: To my father, my best pictures and works of art, including frames... To my mother, all my clothes, except the blue apron with pockets... To my dear sister Margaret ...' (starting to skim) ... yes ... yes... ah -- 'To Jo I leave my most precious plaster rabbit--' "

AMY: (explaining) "Because I'm sorry I burned up her story--"

LAURIE: "That's sweet. 'To Beth -- if she lives after me? -- I give my dolls and the little bureau... To my friend and neighbor Theodore Laurence ... my paper mashay portfolio.' Many thanks indeed. '...And now having disposed of my most valuable property, I set my hand and seal on this 20th day of November 1861. AMY CURTIS MARCH. WITNESS: THEODORE LAURENCE.' Hmm. My name is written in pencil."

AMY: "Yes, I want you to rewrite it in ink and seal it up for me properly."

LAURIE: (soberly) "What put this into your head, Amy? -- Did anyone tell you about Beth's giving away her things?"

AMY: (anxiously) "What about Beth?"

LAURIE: "She felt so ill one day that she told Jo she wanted to give her piano to Meg, her cats to you, and the poor old doll to Jo. She left locks of hair to the rest of us."

AMY: (after a pause, troubled) "Don't people put sort of postscripts to their wills, sometimes?"

LAURIE: "Yes, 'codicils', they call them."

AMY: "Put one in mine then: I wish all my curls cut off, and given round to my friends. I forgot it, but I want it done -- though it will spoil my looks."

LAURIE: (smiling, yet touched, at Amy's last and greatest sacrifice) "All right."

AMY: (sitting next to him, whispering with trembling lips) "Is there really any danger about Beth?"

LAURIE: "I'm afraid there is, but we must hope for the best, so don't cry, dear." (he puts his arm about her with a brotherly gesture which is very comforting)

The LIGHTS CROSSFADE back to the March house slowly.


Doctor Bangs and Hannah are at the sickbed, with Jo and Meg on the periphery. He looks long at Beth, holds the hot hand in both his own for a minute, and lays it gently down.

DR. BANGS: (in a low voice to Hannah) "If Mrs. March can leave her husband she'd better be sent for."

Hannah nods without speaking, and retires with Dr. Bangs to another room to discuss the issue. Meg follows them at a distance. Jo, standing with a pale face for a minute, goes to throw on her things to rush to town, just as Laurie comes in.

LAURIE: (quickly) "What is it? Is Beth worse?"

JO: (tugging at her rubber boots with a tragic expression) "I'm going to send for Mother."

LAURIE: (with a startled face) "Oh, Jo, it's not so bad as that?"

JO: "Yes, it is. She doesn't know us. She doesn't look like my Beth, and there's nobody to help us bear it!"

LAURIE: (taking her hand in his, whispering) "I'm here. Hold on to me, Jo, dear!" (she does so)

JO: (looking up with a grateful face) "Thank you, Teddy, I'm better now.

LAURIE: "Poor girl, you're worn out. (brightening) But stop a bit -- I'll give you something that'll hearten you up in a jiffy!"

JO: (with wonder) "What is it?"

LAURIE: (excited) "I telegraphed to your mother yesterday, and Brooke answered she'd come at once -- she'll be here tonight!"

JO: (joyfully throwing her arms around his neck) "Oh, Laurie! Oh, Mother! I'm so glad! (breathlessly) How can I ever thank you?"

LAURIE: (looking mischievous) "Fly at me again. I rather liked it."

JO: "I'll do it by proxy, when your grandpa comes. Bless you, Teddy, bless you!"

Hannah and Meg enter. Jo rushes up.

JO: "Oh, Hannah! Only think, Laurie has already telegraphed Mother. She's coming tonight!"

HANNAH: (somewhat ruffled) "Tonight, why -- (with a sudden air of relief) Well, that's the interferingest chap I ever see, but I forgive him and do hope Mrs. March is coming right away. -- (suddenly) I guess I'd better knock up a couple of pies in case of company unexpected!" (she rushes off to the kitchen)

JO: (holding Meg's hand encouragingly) "Mother's coming, dear! Mother's coming!"

MEG: (whispering earnestly) "If God spares Beth, I'll never complain again."

JO: (answering with equal fervor) "If God spares Beth, I'll try to love and serve Him all my life."

MEG: (after a pause) "I wish I had no heart, it aches so."

JO: (adding despondently) "If life is as hard as this, I don't see how we'll ever get through it."

Meg's expression changes. Jo sees it and is thunderstruck.

JO: "Meg. What is it, Meg? Beth's -- Beth's -- you're afraid to tell me."

MEG: (not knowing what to make of it) "She's so still!"

JO: (anxiously calling) "Hannah!"

Hannah rushes in, hurries to the bed, looks at Beth, feels her hands, listens at her lips. The others look on expectantly. Finally:

HANNAH: (exclaiming under her breath) "The fever's turned, she's sleepin' nat'ral, her skin's damp, and she breathes easy. Praise be given! Oh, my goodness me!"

JO: (utterly surprised) "What?"

HANNAH: (full of hope) "She'll pull through. She'll pull through!"

Just then, Marmee bursts into the room in her traveling clothes.

JO: "Mother!"

Marmee goes directly to Beth, who wakes from her healing sleep. The first object on which her eyes fall is her Mother's face. Too weak to wonder at anything, she only smiles and nestles close in the loving arms about her, feeling that the hungry longing is satisfied at last. The long, sad vigil is over at last. The LIGHTS FADEOUT slowly.


Scene 22: Pleasant Meadows (Christmas Day)

The LIGHTS FADEUP slowly. Several days of unusually mild weather have fitly ushered in a splendid Christmas Day. All sadness and sickness is gone, and the girls all sit around contentedly. Jo breaks a short pause which has followed a long conversation about many things.

JO: "Just a year ago we were groaning over the dismal Christmas we expected to have. Do you remember?"

MEG: "Rather a pleasant year on the whole!"

AMY: (with thoughtful eyes) "I think it's been a pretty hard one."

BETH: (whispering to her mother) "I'm glad it's over, because we've got you back."

MARMEE: "Rather a rough road for you to travel, my little pilgrims, especially the latter part of it. But you've got on bravely, and I think the burdens are in a fair way to tumble off very soon. (she looks with motherly satisfaction at the four young faces gathered round her) I've made several discoveries today."

MEG: (who sits beside her) "Oh, tell us what they are!"

MARMEE: "Here's one. (she takes up Meg's hand) I remember a time when this hand was white and smooth, and your first care was to keep it so. It was very pretty then, but to me it's much prettier now. Meg, my dear, I value the womanly skill which keeps home happy more than white hands or fashionable accomplishments. I'm proud to shake this good, industrious little hand, and hope we won't soon be asked to give it away." (she gives Meg an approving smile)

BETH: (in her mother's ear) "What about Jo? Please say something nice, for she's tried so hard and been so very, very good to me."

MARMEE: (laughs and looks at Jo) "I don't see the 'son Jo' whom I saw a year ago. I see a young lady who pins her collar straight, laces her boots neatly, and neither whistles, talks slang, nor lies on the rug as she used to do. She doesn't bounce, but moves quietly, and takes care of a certain little person in a motherly way which delights me. I rather miss my wild girl, but if I get a strong, helpful, tenderhearted woman in her place, I'll feel quite satisfied." (Jo's keen eyes are rather dim for a minute)

AMY: (longing for her turn, but ready to wait) "Now, Beth!"

MARMEE: (beginning cheerfully) "There's so little of her, I'm afraid to say much, for fear she'll slip away altogether, though she's not so shy as she used to be. (recollecting how nearly she had lost her, she holds her close) I've got you safe, my Beth, and I'll keep you so, please God." (there is another silence)

MEG: "Amy! Amy!"

MARMEE: (with a caress of Amy's hair) "I observed that Amy took drumsticks at dinner, ran errands for her mother all afternoon, gave Meg her place tonight, and has waited on every one with patience and good humor. I also observe that she doesn't fret much nor look in the glass -- she's learned to think of other people more and of herself less. Though I'd be very proud of a graceful statue made by her, I'll be infinitely prouder of a lovable daughter with a talent for making life beautiful to herself and others." (Amy thanks her mother silently)

JO: (after a serene pause, as Beth sighs) "What are you thinking, Beth?"

BETH: "I'm so full of happiness, that if Father was only here, I couldn't hold one drop more." (she quite sighs with contentment)

JO: "So am I."

AMY: "I'm sure I am."

MEG: "Of course I am!"

MARMEE: (gratefully) "How can I be otherwise?"

LAURIE: (at the door, in a queer, breathless voice) "Here's another Christmas present for the March family..."

Before the words are well out of his mouth, he is whisked away somehow, and in his place appears a tall man, muffled up to the eyes, leaning on Brooke's arm.

BETH: "Father!" (she runs straight for his arms)

Before she takes two steps, the LIGHTS BLACKOUT.


Scene 23: Aunt March Settles the Question (The Day after Christmas)

The following day. Jo and Meg meet near the window.

MEG: "What is it, Jo? Aren't you happy Father's home?"

JO: "Yes, it's wonderful to see him propped up in the big chair again, but I can't help feeling something's not right."

MEG: "Yes, everyone seems to be waiting for something to happen, though what it is I can't imagine."

JO: (pointedly noting the accessory) " 'Mr. Brooke' left his umbrella in the hall yesterday..."

Before Meg has a chance to take this in, Laurie passes outside and, seeing Meg at the window, seems suddenly possessed with a melodramatic fit: he falls down on one knee in the snow, beats his breast, tears his hair, and clasps his hands imploringly, as if begging some boon.

MEG: (shouting to him with a smile) "Behave yourself and go away!"

He wrings imaginary tears out of his handkerchief, and staggers round the corner as if in utter despair.

MEG: (laughing and trying to look unconscious) "What does the goose mean?"

JO: (scornfully) "He's showing you how your John will go on by-and-by. Touching, isn't it?"

MEG: "Don't say 'my John', it isn't proper or true. I've told you I don't care much about him."

JO: (pettishly) "I don't mean to plague you and will bear it like a man, but if you mean ever to do it, I wish you'd make haste."

MEG: "I can't say anything till he speaks, and he won't, because Father said I was too young."

JO: "If he did speak, you wouldn't know what to say."

MEG: (unconsciously assuming an important air) "I'm not so silly and weak as you think. I know just what I should say."

JO: (smiling yet respectful) "What?"

MEG: "Oh, I should merely say, 'Thank you, Mr. Brooke, you're very kind, but I agree with Father that I'm too young to enter into any engagement at present.' "

JO: "Hum, that's stiff and cool enough -- but I don't believe you'll ever say it. You'll give in, rather than hurt his feelings!"

MEG: (rising as she speaks) "No, I won't. I'll tell him I've made up my mind, and walk out of the room with dignity."

Meg is just going to rehearse the dignified exit, when a knock on the door stops her short. Jo smothers a laugh at the sudden change, then takes on an inhospitable aspect as Brooke enters.

BROOKE: (getting a trifle confused as his eyes goes from one telltale face to the other) "Good afternoon. I came to get my umbrella -- that is, to see how your father finds himself today."

JO: "It's very well, he's in the rack. I'll get him, and tell it you are here."

Congratulating herself, Jo slips out of the room to give Meg a chance to make her speech and air her dignity. But the instant she vanishes, Meg begins to sidle toward the door.

MEG: (murmuring) "Mother will like to see you. Pray sit down, I'll call her."

BROOKE: "Don't go. Are you afraid of me, Margaret?"

He looks so hurt that Meg thinks she must have done something very rude. She blushes, but is anxious to appear friendly and at her ease.

MEG: (gratefully) "How can I be afraid when you've been so kind to Father? I only wish I could thank you for it."

BROOKE: (holding the small hand fast in both his own) "Shall I tell you how?"

He is looking down at Meg with so much love in the brown eyes that her heart begins to flutter, and she both longs to run away and to stop and listen.

MEG: (trying to withdraw her hand, and looking frightened in spite of her denial) "Oh no, please don't, I'd rather not."

BROOKE: "I won't trouble you. I only want to know if you care for me a little, Meg. (adding tenderly) I love you so much, dear."

MEG: (very softly, entirely forgetting her speech) "I don't know."

BROOKE: (stooping down to catch her reply, then in his most persuasive tone) "Will you try and find out? I want to know so much, for I can't go to work with any heart until I learn whether I'm to have my reward in the end or not."

MEG: (faltering) "I-- I'm too young..."

BROOKE: "I'll wait, and in the meantime, you could be learning to like me. Would it be a very hard lesson, dear?"

MEG: "Not if I chose to learn it, but --"

BROOKE: (breaking in, getting possession of the other hand, so that she has no way of hiding her face as he bends to look into it) "Please choose to learn, Meg. I love to teach, and this is easier than German."

MEG: (withdrawing her hands petulantly, nettled at his evident satisfaction) "I don't choose. Please go away and let me be!"

BROOKE: (anxiously, following her, bewildered) "Do you really mean that?"

MEG: "Yes, I do. I don't want to be worried about such things. Father says I needn't, it's too soon and I'd rather not."

BROOKE: "May I hope you'll change your mind by-and-by? I'll wait and say nothing till you've had more time. Don't play with me, Meg. I didn't think that of you."

MEG: (taking a naughty satisfaction in trying her lover's patience and her own power) "Don't think of me at all. I'd rather you wouldn't."

He is grave and pale now, and just stands looking at her so wistfully, so tenderly, that she finds her heart relenting in spite of herself. Suddenly, Aunt March comes hobbling in. Meg starts as if she has seen a ghost, and Brooke vanishes into the study.

AUNT MARCH: (with a rap of her cane as she glances from the pale young gentleman to the scarlet young lady) "Bless me, what's all this?!"

MEG: (stammering, feeling that she is in for a lecture now) "It's Father's friend. I'm so surprised to see you!"

AUNT MARCH: (Sitting down) "That's evident. But what is Father's friend saying to make you look like a peony? There's mischief going on, and I insist upon knowing what it is." (she gives another rap)

MEG: (wishing that Brooke and the umbrella were safely out of the house) "We were only talking. Mr. Brooke came for his umbrella."

AUNT MARCH: "Brooke? That boy's tutor? Ah! I understand now. I know all about it. (looking scandalized) You haven't gone and accepted him, child?"

MEG: (much troubled) "Hush! He'll hear. Shall I call Mother?"

AUNT MARCH: "Not yet. I've something to say to you, and I must free my mind at once. Tell me, do you mean to marry this Cook? (impressively) If you do, not one penny of my money ever goes to you. Remember that, and be a sensible girl."

Being already much excited, Meg opposes the old lady with unusual spirit.

MEG: (nodding her head with a resolute air) "I shall marry whom I please, Aunt March, and you can leave your money to anyone you like."

AUNT MARCH: "Highty-tighty! Is that the way you take my advice, Miss? You'll be sorry for it by-and-by, when you've tried love in a cottage and found it a failure."

MEG: "It can't be a worse one than some people find in big houses."

Aunt March takes a look at the girl, and decides to make a fresh start.

AUNT MARCH: (as mildly as she can) "Now, Meg, my dear, be reasonable and take my advice. I mean it kindly, and don't want you to spoil your whole life by making a mistake at the beginning. You ought to marry well and help your family. It's your duty to make a rich match and it ought to be impressed upon you."

MEG: "Father and Mother don't think so. They like John though he is poor."

AUNT MARCH: "Your parents, my dear, have no more worldly wisdom than a pair of babies."

MEG: (stoutly) "I'm glad of it."

AUNT MARCH: (taking no notice, but going on with her lecture) "This Rook is poor and hasn't got any rich relations, has he?"

MEG: "No, but he has many warm friends."

AUNT MARCH: "You can't live on friends, try it and see how cool they'll grow. He hasn't any business, has he?"

MEG: "Not yet. Mr. Laurence is going to help him."

AUNT MARCH: "That won't last long. So, you intend to marry a man without money, position, or business, when you might be comfortable all your days by minding me and doing better? I thought you had more sense, Meg."

MEG: (looking prettier than ever in her earnestness) "I couldn't do better if I waited half my life! John is good and wise, he's got heaps of talent, he's willing to work and sure to get on."

AUNT MARCH: "He knows you've got rich relations, child. That's the secret of his liking, I suspect."

MEG: (indignantly, forgetting everything but the injustice of the old lady's suspicions) "Aunt March, how dare you say such a thing? My John wouldn't marry for money, any more than I would! He loves me, and I--" (she stops, flustered, remembering all of a sudden that she supposedly hadn't made up her mind to marry him yet)

AUNT MARCH: (sad and sour) "Well, I wash my hands of the whole affair! You're a willful child, and you've lost more than you know by this piece of folly. Don't expect anything from me when you are married. Your Mr. Book's friends must take care of you. I'm done with you forever!"

Aunt March slams the door in Meg's face, and drives off in high dudgeon. Meg stands for a moment, undecided whether to laugh or cry. Before she can make up her mind, she is taken possession of by Brooke.

BROOKE: (all in one breath) "I couldn't help hearing, Meg. Thank you for defending me, and Aunt March for proving that you do care for me a little bit."

MEG: "I didn't know how much till she abused you."

BROOKE: "And I needn't go away, but may stay and be happy, may I, dear?"

MEG: (meekly whispering) "Yes, John." (she hides her face on Brooke's waistcoat)

JO: (bursting in with a satisfied expression) "Oh Meg, I'm so glad you've seen him away as we planned, and that affair is settled! I'll --" (she sees them and gives a sort of gasp)

Meg jumps up, looking both proud and shy, but Brooke merely laughs.

BROOKE: (coolly, as he kisses the astonished newcomer) "Sister Jo, congratulate us!"

That is adding insult to injury, it is altogether too much, and Jo makes a wild demonstration with her hands.

JO: (exclaiming tragically) "Oh, do somebody come quick! John Brooke is acting dreadfully, and Meg likes it!"

The LIGHTS BLACKOUT.


Scene B: "Little Women..."

Lu enters Niles' office with a bag. She is rather tired, but in good spirits.

LU: (carefully taking some large items from the bag) "Well, here are May's drawings for the book. I hope they'll go."

NILES: (taking them) "Excellent. I'll bring those in to the printer right away."

LU: (taking a large sheaf of papers) "And here are the proofs of the book. There are only a few changes."

NILES: (taking them) "Splendid. (notices her) How are you feeling?"

LU: "Better -- but I'm still tired. And my mother has been ill again."

NILES: "I'm sorry to hear it. (turning to the proofs) How did you find the book after a month off?"

LU: "Actually, I found it read better than I'd expected. Not a bit sensational, but simple and true. (smiles) Well, it ought to -- we really lived most of it. If it succeeds, that'll be the reason for it. (she rises to leave) Well, if that's all --"

NILES: "Ah, just one more thing. (something in his tone makes her resume her weary seat) There is the small matter of the sequel."

LU: (tiredly) "The sequel? I've only barely finished writing the book."

NILES: "Yes, but how does Meg's marriage go? What happens to Amy? Does Beth get sick again? Oh, and most important: how does Jo end up with Laurie?"

LU: (staunchly) "Mr. Niles, I won't marry Jo off to Laurie to please anyone! -- (contemptuously) As if that's the only end and aim of a woman's life..."

NILES: "Well, whom else would she marry, pray tell?"

LU: (pointedly) "Maybe she marries nobody!"

NILES: (scandalized) "Now you're being ridiculous, Miss Alcott -- of course she's got to marry someone!..."

LU: "Why, 'pray tell'? --so she can take care of some stranger's family? Why mightn't she end up a spinster instead, and take care of her own family? (wryly) That would be true to life, anyway..."

NILES: "Surely you don't propose to keep Jo from getting married when everyone wants her to? (stopping himself) Oh, nevermind this. All I want to know is, are you willing to write the sequel?"

LU: (fiercely relenting) "If my family didn't need the money --"

NILES: "Could you have it for the spring? -- (mischievously) Perhaps we could call it 'Wedding Marches'..."

LU: (outraged but getting his joke) "Mr. Niles, please! Let's use Little Women, Act Second -- or (brainstorming) Leaving the Nest: Sequel to 'Little Women'..."

NILES: (quickly) "You'll do it then?"

LU: (slowly yielding) "Yes... (grumpily) Yes..."

The LIGHTS FADEOUT quickly.


Scene 24/25: Gossip/The First Wedding (June)

Outside of the house, Marmee, Amy, and Beth are ready for the wedding. The SOUNDS of the outdoors are heard. Jo rushes in waving a piece of paper.

JO: (proudly waving a check before them) "Look everyone!"

AMY: (almost scandalized) "Jo, are you ready for Meg's wedding?!"

JO: (sweetly) "Oh hush you -- there's still plenty of time! Look!" (she shows the check)

BETH: "Another story published, Jo?"

JO: "Not only that -- I've won first prize in the contest! One hundred dollars! (Amy takes the check) THE DUKE'S DAUGHTER paid the butcher's bill, A PHANTOM HAND put down the new carpet, and now the CURSE OF THE COVENTRYS will prove a blessing to the Marches!"

MARMEE: "That's wonderful, dear!"

Meg and Brooke enter.

AMY: (leaping up and taking Meg's hands) "Well, you can't say nothing pleasant ever happens now, can you, Meg?!"

MEG: (blissfully) "No, I'm sure I can't. How much has happened since I said that!"

MARMEE: "The joys come close upon the sorrows this time..."

JO: (impatiently) "Oh, all this romance! (with an air of relief as Laurie enters) Here comes Laurie. Now we'll have some sensible conversation."

LAURIE: (entering, overflowing with good spirits) "Congratulations, Meg! I knew Brooke would have it all his own way, he always does."

MEG: (appreciatively) "Thank you, Laurie."

Laurie and Brooke go down to the trellis.

MARMEE: "Are you satisfied? Do you feel you'll be happy here?"

MEG: (with a look that is far better than words) "Yes, Mother, perfectly satisfied, thanks to you all, and so happy that I can't talk about it. (looking about her, pleased) And I'm so glad not to have a 'fashionable wedding' -- but only those about me whom I love, with whom I can look and be my familiar self."

Laurie has returned from Brooke and takes Jo into the house.

AMY: (surveying Meg with delight) "You look just like our own dear Meg, only so very sweet and lovely that I'd hug you if it wouldn't crumple your dress."

MEG: "Then I'm satisfied. But do hug and kiss me, and don't mind my dress. I want a great many crumples of this sort put into it today."

Meg opens her arms to her sister and mother, who cling about her with April faces for a minute, feeling that the new love had not changed the old.

MEG: "Now I'm going to tie John's cravat for him, and then to stay a few minutes with Father quietly in the study."

Meg runs down to perform these little ceremonies, just as Aunt March arrives. She is scandalized to see the bride come running to welcome and lead her in, and to find the bridegroom fastening up a garland that has fallen down.

AUNT MARCH: "Upon my word, here's a state of things! (being hugged by Meg) Why, you oughtn't to be seen till the last minute, child!"

MEG: (happily) "I'm not a show, Aunty, and no one is coming to stare at me, to criticize my dress, or count the cost of my luncheon. I'm too happy to care what anyone says or thinks, and I'm going to have my little wedding just as I like it. John, dear, it's nearly time."

Brooke steps down and kisses his little bride, with a look that makes Aunt March whisk out her handkerchief with a sudden dew in her sharp old eyes. From the house comes a sudden crash, a cry, and a laugh from Laurie.

LAURIE: "Jupiter Ammon! (at the door) Jo's upset the cake again!" (exits)

AUNT MARCH: (whispering to Amy) "Don't let that young giant come near me, he worries me worse than mosquitoes."

AMY: "He's promised to be very good today, and he can be perfectly elegant if he likes."

HANNAH: (entering) "The cake ain't hurt a mite, and everything looks lovely."

Amy helps Aunt March exit toward the wedding site, where Hannah is also going, and the others have already gone. Jo and Laurie enter, laughing. Laurie takes Jo's apron string playfully. At first Jo is going to fight back, then stops and smiles.

JO: (witheringly) "I thought you didn't like being tied to a woman's apron strings..."

LAURIE: (mischievously retorting) "That depends on who the woman is!"

JO: (surprised at this "romantic" answer) "Mercy me! (collecting herself) Now, Teddy, I want to talk seriously to you about today. You must promise to behave well."

LAURIE: "Not a prank."

JO: "And don't look at me during the ceremony -- I'll laugh."

LAURIE: "You won't see me -- you'll be crying so hard there'll be a thick fog round you."

JO: "I never cry unless for some great affliction."

LAURIE: (with suggestive laugh) "Exactly! One March girl down, three to go..."

JO: (scandalized) "Mercy on us! We don't want any more marrying in this family for years to come. What are you thinking of?"

LAURIE: (shaking his head over the degeneracy of the times) "It's a fast age -- you're a mere infant, but you'll go next, Jo, and we'll be left lamenting."

JO: "I'm too busy to be worried with such nonsense, and I think it's dreadful to break up families so. Now don't say any more about it. Meg's wedding has turned all our heads, and we talk of nothing but lovers and such absurdities. Come on, it's time!" (she starts toward the wedding site)

LAURIE: (giving a long low whistle and whispering a fearful prediction as he follows her) "Mark my words, Jo, you'll go next!"

The LIGHTS FADEOUT slowly, as the words of Mr. March ("Dearly beloved, we are gathered her today...") begin.


Scene 30/35/32: Calls/Heartache/Consequences (June)

The same scene several hours later. Aunt March is speaking to Meg and Brooke, who are readying to leave. Amy enters.

AUNT MARCH: (kissing Meg) "I wish you well, my dear, I heartily wish you well, but I think you'll be sorry for it. (adding to Brooke) You've got a treasure, young man, see that you deserve it."

BROOKE: (not sure how to respond to this 'compliment') "Why, er, thank you, Aunty."

The lovers exit to continue greeting guests. Aunt March moves to take a seat, where Amy helps her then sits herself.

AUNT MARCH: "This has been the prettiest wedding I've been to for an age -- and I don't see why, for there isn't a bit of style about it."

Jo enters with a plate of cake and takes a seat in a provocatively masculine way. Aunt March tries to ignore this.

AUNT MARCH: (to Amy) "Are you going to help about the fair, dear?"

AMY: "Yes, Aunt. Mrs. Chester asked me if I would, and I offered to tend a table, as I have nothing but my time to give."

JO: (decidedly cutting in) "I'm not! I hate to be patronized. I wonder you consented, Amy, they only want you to work."

AMY: "I'm willing to work. Patronage doesn't trouble me when it's well meant."

AUNT MARCH: "Quite right and proper. I like your grateful spirit, my dear. It's a pleasure to help people who appreciate our efforts. Some do not, and that is trying." (She looks over her spectacles at Jo)

JO: "I don't like favors, they oppress me and make me feel like a slave. I'd rather do everything for myself, and be perfectly independent." (she sits with her nose in the air, and a revolutionary aspect which is anything but inviting)

AUNT MARCH: (coughing decidedly) "Ahem! (laying a hand on Amy's) How is your French coming along, dear?"

AMY: "Pretty well, thanks to you, Aunt March. I'm so grateful you let Esther talk to me as often as I wanted when Beth was sick." (she gives a grateful look, which causes the old lady to smile affably)

AUNT MARCH: (to Jo) "How are your languages now?"

JO: (brusquely) "Don't know a word. I'm very stupid about studying anything, and I can't bear French."

AUNT MARCH: (after another dissatisfied look at Jo, to Amy) "You are quite strong and well, now, dear, I believe? Your eyes are better?"

AMY: "I'm very well, thank you ma'am, and mean to do great things next winter, so that I may be ready for Rome, whenever that joyful time arrives."

AUNT MARCH: (approvingly) "Good girl! You deserve to go, and I'm sure you will ... some day. (she starts to rise and Amy helps her) Come and take a walk, my dear?"

AMY: "Thank you, I will."

JO: (waving after Aunt March in a gentlemanly manner) "Goodby."

Amy and Aunt March depart. Laurie enters from the house, with a deliberateness that is unexpected in him, and looks about to confirm that they are alone.

JO: (smiling) "Now you must have a good long holiday!"

LAURIE: "I intend to." (he looks down at her with longing)

JO: (turning to explore his face with concern) "What is it? (realizing that a dreaded moment has come, she puts out her hand imploringly) No, Teddy. Please don't!"

LAURIE: (getting flushed and excited all at once) "We've got to have it out, Jo, and the sooner the better for both of us."

JO: (with a desperate sort of patience) "Say what you like then. I'll listen."

LAURIE: (earnestly) "I've loved you ever since I've known you, Jo. (she sighs) I've tried to show it, but you wouldn't let me. Now I'm going to make you hear."

JO: (finding it a great deal harder than she expected) "I wanted to save you this. I thought you'd understand.... (trying to explain) I'm so grateful to you, and so proud and fond of you, but I can't love you as you want me to, though I've tried."

LAURIE: (stopping short and catching both her hands, intensely) "Really, truly, Jo?"

JO: (reluctantly) "Really, truly, dear. (Laurie drops her hands as if to go, but drops his head and stands very still) Oh, Teddy, I'm sorry, so desperately sorry, I could kill myself if it would do any good! (inelegantly but remorsefully patting his shoulder) You know it's impossible for people to make themselves love other people if they don't."

LAURIE: (in a muffled voice) "They do sometimes."

JO: (decidedly) "I don't believe it's the right sort of love, and I'd rather not try it. (there is a long pause, then she continues very soberly) Oh, Laurie... (Laurie looks up at her with an expectant face, which only makes it more difficult) I don't believe you and I are suited to each other -- our quick tempers and strong wills would make us miserable, if we were so foolish as to ..."

LAURIE: (intensely) "Marry? -- no they wouldn't! If you loved me, Jo, I'd be a perfect saint -- you could make me anything you like."

JO: "No, I can't. I've tried and failed, and I won't risk our happiness by such a serious experiment. (imploring, exasperated) Now do be reasonable, and take a sensible view of the case --"

LAURIE: "I won't be reasonable. It won't help me, and it only makes it harder. I don't believe you've got any heart."

JO: (with a little quiver in her voice) "I wish I hadn't."

LAURIE: (bringing all his persuasive powers to bear) "Don't disappoint us, dear! Everyone expects it. Say you will, and let's be happy. Do, Jo!"

JO: (beginning solemnly, with difficulty) "I can't say 'yes' truly, so I won't say it at all. You'll see that I'm right, by-and-by, and thank me for it--"

LAURIE: "I'll be hanged if I do!" (he bounces up off the grass, burning with indignation at the very idea)

JO: (persisting) "Yes, you will! You'll get over this after a while, and find some lovely accomplished girl, who will adore you, and make a fine mistress for your fine house. I wouldn't. We'd quarrel -- look, we can't help it even now -- and we'd be unhappy and everything would be horrid!"

LAURIE: (finding it hard to listen patiently to this prophetic burst) "Anything more?"

JO: "Nothing more, except that I don't believe I'll ever marry. I'm happy as I am, and love my liberty too well to be in a hurry to give it up for any mortal man."

LAURIE: (breaking in) "There'll come a time when you will care for somebody -- and I'll have to stand by and see it!"

JO: (losing patience with poor Teddy) "Well then, you'll just have to manage the best you can! (she sighs) I've done my best, but you won't be reasonable. I'll always be fond of you, but I'll never marry you, and the sooner you believe it the better for both of us -- so now!"

LAURIE: (after looking at her for a minute in confusion, in a desperate sort of tone) "You'll be sorry some day, Jo." (he storms off)

JO: (his face has frightened her) "Where are you going?!"

LAURIE: (as he exits) "To the devil!"

She stands stunned, and presently Marmee arrives, her face grave.

MARMEE: (curtly) "Jo, I thought I should tell you right away. (sighing) Aunt March is going abroad next month, and wants --"

JO: (shaking herself awake) "Me to go with her?!"

MARMEE: "No, dear, not you. It's Amy."

JO: "Oh, Mother! It's my turn first. I've wanted it so long. (passionately) It isn't fair, oh, it isn't fair!"

MARMEE: "I wish you could have gone, but there's no hope of it this time."

JO: "Oh, I wish I could go away somewhere this winter for a change..."

MARMEE: (after a pause, thoughtfully) "You know Mrs. Kirke wrote to me for some respectable young person to teach her children and sew. It might suit you..."

JO: (surprised, but not displeased) "Go out to service in that great boarding house in New York City?! (decidedly) Well, why not! Mrs. Kirke is your friend and would make things pleasant for me -- and it's honest work, I'm not ashamed of it."

MARMEE: "Nor I. But your writing?"

JO: "All the better for the change. I'll see and hear new things, get new ideas, and bring home quantities of material for my rubbish."

MARMEE: "Well, if it can be managed, you'll go."

JO: (gratefully) "Thank you so much, Mother!"

The LIGHTS BLACKOUT.


Scene 33/34: Jo's Journal/A Friend (New Year's)

Jo is writing a letter home from New York.

JO: "A Happy New Year to you all, dearest family! I've got heaps to tell, though I'm not a fine young lady traveling on the continent but only a young governess in New York. I'm still amazed to hear that Laurie and his Grandfather have trundled off to Europe! I do hope they'll take time to visit Amy, and that the dear boy's heart is mending... Mrs. Kirke has given me a splendid room with a nice table in a sunny window, so I can sit here and write whenever I like. The day I arrived, I met a certain Professor Bhaer. He was already good friends with my little charges, Tina and Kitty..."

BHAER: (with a threatening frown that delights the little wretches) "Ah, yes, I hear these naughty ones go to vex you, Mees Marsch. If so again, call at me and I come."

JO: "I must be doomed to see a good deal of him, for one day as I passed his door on my way out, by accident I knocked against it with my umbrella. The door flew open, and there he stood in his dressing gown, darning a sock..."

BHAER: (with a big blue sock on one hand and a darning needle in the other, he says in his loud, cheerful way, waving his hand, sock and all) "You haf a fine day to make your walk. Bon voyage, Mademoiselle."

JO: "I laughed all the way downstairs, but it was sad to think of the poor man having to mend his own clothes. I made up my mind to help him, and with Mrs. K's help, I secretly darned his socks. One day in the nursery there was such an uproar in the parlor that I had to look in..."

BHAER: (soberly to Jo, rising from playing an elephant) "I gif you my wort, dear lady, if we make too large a noise you shall say Hush! to us, and we go more softly."

JO: "They were having so much fun, I couldn't help but peek in. They played tag and soldiers, and he told charming fairy stories. He even offered me lessons..."

BHAER: "So! you peep at me, I peep at you, and this is not bad, but see, I am not pleasanting when I say, haf you a wish for German?"

JO: (blundering out) "Yes, but you're too busy..."

BHAER: "Prut! We will make the time, and I shall gif a little lesson with much gladness, for look you, Mees Marsch, I haf this debt to pay. (he holds up the stocking she has mended for him) I haf an eye, and I see much. I haf a heart, and I feel thanks for this. Come, a little lesson then and now, or no more good fairy works for me and mine."

JO: "Of course I couldn't refuse. (he puts a book in her hands) He was very patient with me, but it must have been torment to him to have me as a student. Yet he spoke so kindly..."

BHAER: (clapping his hands and crying out in his hearty way) "Das ist gut! Now we go well!" (he takes the book back to find another reading)

JO: "It's very good of him, isn't it? By the way, I'm getting rich in books now, for on New Year's Day Mr. Bhaer gave me a fine Shakespeare!"

BHAER: "You say often you wish a library. Here I gif you one, for between these lids --"

JO: "He meant 'covers' --"

BHAER: "--is many books in one. Read him well, and he will help you much, for the study of character in this book will help you to read it in the world and paint it with your pen."

JO: "Yes, I still find time for literary labors. But I'm ashamed to confess that I've had to learn a very important lesson about my writing. You see, although I've never told you this before -- and it pains me even now to tell you -- I wanted so much to earn money for my dear ones at home that I took to writing 'sensation stories'. In these dark ages, even all-perfect America reads rubbish -- and pays for it! -- so I proceeded to concoct a series of 'thrilling tales', which Mr. Dashwood of the WEEKLY VOLCANO published and paid me for. Then I began to write more. (she sighs) But wrong-doing always brings its own punishment, and when I most needed mine, I got it. It was Mr. Bhaer who gave me my lesson..."

Bhaer comes in to give Jo her lesson with a paper soldier cap on his head, which Tina had put there and he had forgotten to take off.

BHAER: "Goot efening."

JO: "Good evening, Herr Professor!"

BHAER: (dramatically, quite unconscious of the ludicrous contrast between his subject and his headgear) "Ve begin mit the Prolog from the great tragedy of Wallenstein, no?."

JO: (avoiding his glance, lest she burst out in laughter) "Yes, sir."

BHAER: "Goot. (he begins, reading well, but pauses more and more frequently as Jo lets forth occassional bursts of laughter)

  Der scherzenden, der ernsten Maske Spiel
  Dem ihr so oft ein willig Ohr und Auge
  Geliehn, die weiche Seele hingegeben --
  
             [The sport of jesting and of earnest masks,
             To which you have lent willing ears and eyes
             So often, and committed tender hearts -- ]
  
(finally stopping, not knowing what to make of her, with an air of mild surprise that is irresistible) Mees Marsch, for what do you laugh in your master's face? Haf you no respect for me, that you go on so bad?"

JO: "How can I be respectful, Sir, when you forget to take your hat off?"

Lifting his hand to his head, he gravely feels and removes the little cocked hat, looks at it a minute, and then throws back his head and laughs.

BHAER: "Ah! I see him now, it is that imp Tina who makes me a fool with my cap. Well, it is nothing, but see you, if this lesson goes not well, you too shall wear him. (he catches sight of a picture on the hat, and unfolds it, then speaks with great disgust) I wish these papers did not come in the house. They are not for children to see, nor young people to read. I haf no patience with those who make this harm."

JO: "Oh! (she takes the paper in terror, realizes the story is not one of hers, and puts the paper down at some distance from her, avoiding his glance)

BHAER: (quite naturally, but very gravely) "Yes, you are right to put it from you. I do not think that good young girls should see such things. I would more rather give my boys gunpowder to play with than this bad trash."

JO: "I doubt if all such stories are bad -- some may be only silly, you know."

BHAER: "Bah! If these 'authors' knew what harm they did, they would not feel that the living was honest. No, they should think a little, and sweep mud in the street before they do this thing! (he rips up the paper, while Jo sits still, her cheeks burning; he mutters, relieved) I should like much to send all the rest after him."

JO: (calmly taking up her book, with a studious face) "Shall we go on, Sir? I'll be very good and proper now."

BHAER: (with a grave, kind look, meaning more than she imagines) "I shall hope so."

They look at each other meaningfully, then she goes to her desk.

JO: (going to the piles of paper) "As soon as I went to my room, I reread every one of my stories. (to herself, with dismay) They are trash. I know it, for I can't read them in sober earnest without being horribly ashamed of them. (continuing her narrative) I burned them up. And when nothing remained of three month's work except a heap of ashes, I knew I'd never write another sensation story. (adding almost impatiently) Sometimes I almost wish I hadn't any conscience, it's so inconvenient. If I didn't care about doing right, and didn't feel uncomfortable when doing wrong, I should get on capitally. I can't help wishing sometimes, Mother and Father, that you hadn't been so particular about such things. (she smiles) But then, of course, I'm glad you were. (finishing the letter) I miss you all -- Ever your loving, Jo."

She puts down the pen, and sighs, satisfied. She picks up the letter, reads it as if again, then rises, taking her bag and the letter.

BHAER: (seeing her leaving, he rises disturbed) "So my friend, you are going home? Ah, you are happy that you haf a home to go in." (he rumples his hair wildly)

JO: "Happy, yes -- but there is a shadow..." (she shows him the letter)

MARMEE: "Dear Jo, I'm anxious about Beth. She sits alone a good deal, and I found her crying the other day. I'm sure there's something on her mind, but when I've tried to ask her about it once or twice, she evaded my questions or looked so distressed that I stopped. I never force my children's confidence, but I think, perhaps, she'll open her tender little heart to her Jo. If she only would get quite strong and cheerful again, I wouldn't have a wish in the world."

BHAER: (tenderly) "I am very sorry for it. (goodheartedly) You go see the poor dear, and bring her the happiness you so often haf brought me! (noticing her hand) You haf given up writing? (Jo gives a look of surprise; he takes her hand and shows the fingers) No more inky finger..." (he smiles, and she smiles back)

JO: (brightening) "Yes. From now on, I'm going to occupy my mind with something useful, whether it's pleasant or not."

He smiles. Slowly their hands slip apart again.

JO: (cheerful, but also sad to leave him) "Now, sir, you won't forget to come and see us, if you ever travel our way, will you? I want them all to know my friend."

BHAER: (looking down at her with an eager expression which she does not see) "Do you? Shall I come?"

JO: "Yes, come in the Spring. Amy should be back from Europe then -- maybe Laurie will too!"

BHAER: (in an altered tone) "That is your best friend, of whom you speak?"

JO: "Yes, my boy Teddy. I'm very proud of him and should so like you to see him!"

BHAER: (back in his usual expression, cordially) "I fear I shall not make the time for that, but I wish the friend much success, and you all happiness. Gott bless you! and my love to your little Beth." (he shakes hands warmly and moves away)

JO: "Well, goodbye." (she takes up her bag and starts out)

BHAER: (after watching her go, with a sigh of longing) "It is not for me, I must not hope it now."

The LIGHTS FADEOUT slowly.


Scene 36: Beth's Secret (Winter)

The LIGHTS FADEUP quickly on Beth and Jo. Beth has just revealed her secret and Jo is stunned, her mouth hanging open. Now the strong sister and the feeble one know that a long separation is not far away.

JO: (in a thunderstruck monotone) "No, Beth, no. It can't be true."

BETH: (very tenderly, once Jo is able to be with her again) "Jo, dear, I'm glad you know it. I've known it for a good while, dear, and now I'm used to it, so it isn't hard to bear."

JO: "Is this what made you so unhappy in the autumn, Beth? -- You didn't feel it then, did you, and keep it to yourself so long?"

BETH: "Yes, I tried to think it was a sick fancy, 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."

JO: (with tender reproach) "Oh, Beth, how could you bear it all alone? (decidedly) But you must get well."

BETH: "I want to, oh, so much! I try, but every day I lose a little, and feel more sure that I shall never gain it back. It's like the tide, Jo, when it turns, it goes slowly, but it can't be stopped."

JO: "It shall be stopped -- (rising) nineteen is too young! (rebelliously) God won't be so cruel as to take you from me!"

BETH: (unable to explain the faith that gives her courage and patience to give up life, and cheerfully wait for death) "I can't say 'I'm glad to die' for life is very sweet for me. But -- (holding fast to Jo) I try to be willing! (she sobs out; by and by, she adds, with recovered serenity) You'll tell the others?"

JO: "I think they'll see it without words."

BETH: "I don't want any secrets, and it's kinder to prepare them. Meg has John and the babies to comfort her, but you must stand by Father and Mother, won't you Jo?"

JO: "If I can. But, Beth, I don't give up yet. (trying to speak cheerfully) I'm going to believe that it is a sick fancy, and not let you think it's true."

BETH: (after a minute thinking, then in her quiet way) "I don't know how to express myself, but I have a feeling that it was never intended that I should live long. I'm not like the rest of you: I never made any plans about what I'd do when I grew up. I never thought of being married, as you all did. I never wanted to go away -- and now the hard part is leaving you all. I'm not afraid to die, but it seems as if I should be homesick for you even in heaven. (she cries, neither can speak for a minute, then Beth adds simply) I hope I shall see dear Amy again -- she seems so far away."

JO: (denying fate) "She's coming home in the spring, and I mean to have you well and rosy by the time she gets here!"

BETH: (decidedly stopping her) "Jo, dear, don't hope any more. It won't do any good. (Jo gives in) We won't be miserable, but enjoy being together while we wait. We'll have happy times, for I don't suffer much, and I think the tide will go out easily, if you help me."

JO: (leaning down to view the tranquil face) "I will, dear." (with a silent kiss, she dedicates herself soul and body to Beth)

The LIGHTS FADEOUT slowly.


Scene 42: All Alone (Spring)

Jo sits on the couch, her face in her hands. Beth is gone, and her piano is draped in black. The little doll sits on closed keyboard. Jo weeps softly for some time. The LIGHTS FADEOUT slowly.


Scene 43: Surprises (Spring)

Jo lies asleep. Suddenly Laurie stands before her. She looks up at him in startled silence. He stoops and kisses her. She flies up.

JO: (crying joyfully) "Oh my Teddy! Oh my Teddy!"

LAURIE: "Dear Jo, you're glad to see me, then?"

JO: "Glad! Words can't express it! Where's Amy?"

LAURIE: "Down at Meg's. We stopped there by the way, and there was no getting my wife out of their clutches. (quickly) I mean 'Amy' -- Now I've done it!"

JO: "Your what? You've gone and got married!"

LAURIE: "Yes, please, but I never will again." (he goes down on his knees, with a penitent clasping of hands, and a face full of mischief, mirth, and triumph)

JO: (falling into her seat with a gasp) "Mercy on us. What dreadful thing will you do next?"

LAURIE: (still in an abject attitude, but beaming with satisfaction) "A characteristic, but not exactly complimentary, congratulation."

JO: "Get up, you ridiculous boy, and tell me all about it!"

LAURIE: (rising excitedly) "Well, Aunt March decided to pass another winter in Paris, but Grandpa wanted to come home. I couldn't let him go alone, but I couldn't leave Amy either. Aunt March wouldn't let Amy come with us, so I just said, 'Let's be married, and then we can do as we like'!"

JO: "You always have things to suit you."

LAURIE: (he looks at her wryly) "Not always... (resuming) Anyway, we got married in Paris, six weeks ago -- a very quiet wedding of course, for even in our happiness we didn't forget dear little Beth."

Jo puts her hand in his as he says this, and Laurie holds it fast. Pause.

LAURIE: (with a manly gravity she has never seen in him before) Jo, dear, I want to say one thing, and then we'll put it by forever. You know I'll always love you, but that love is altered. You knew that would happen, and you were right. I just want you to know that I was done with the old love before I was on with the new, so I really can honestly share my heart between sister Jo and wife Amy, and love them dearly. Will you believe it, and go back to the happy old times when we first knew one another?"

JO: (with deep feeling) "I'll believe it, with all my heart! (they embrace, then she resumes) Why, it seems only yesterday that I was buttoning Amy's pinafore! Mercy me, how time does fly! This last year has been such a hard one that I feel forty."

LAURIE: "Poor Jo! We left you to bear it alone, while we went pleasuring. Well, never again! Amy and I can't get on without you, so you must come and teach 'the children' to keep house, and we'll all be happy together!"

JO: "If I shouldn't be in the way. Oh, you always were a comfort, Teddy." (she leans her head on his shoulder, smiling)

AMY: (calling from outside) "Where is she? Where's my dear old Jo?"

JO: (leaping up) "Amy!"

The LIGHTS BLACKOUT.


Hannah places a package on the sideboard. Jo and Marmee, huddled together, talk about Amy and Laurie.

JO: "I was right -- Laurie's found the beautiful, accomplished girl who'll become his home better than clumsy old Jo."

MARMEE (softly) "Love has done much for our little girl."

JO: (breaking away, forlorn) "An old maid, that's what I'm to be. A literary spinster, with a pen for a spouse, a family of stories for children. (she suddenly notices the package that Hannah has set down, and her mood changes radically) Huh?"

MARMEE: "What is it dear?"

JO: "The proofs to my book! How did these get here?"

MARMEE: "Hannah just set them down."

JO: (bursting with energy) "Wha- Hannah!"

Hannah rushes in, warily. Jo goes right up to her, with fierce determination.

JO: "Hannah, where did this package come from?"

HANNAH: (flustered) "Why, I -- a gentleman brought it just a minute ago."

JO: "Why didn't you give it to me?" (points at label)

HANNAH: (surprised to see that the label says "Josephine") "What do you know... -- Well, he said to give it to Miss March, so I naturally thought it was another wedding gift for Miss Amy. I'm sorry, Miss Josephine."

JO: "Where did he go?"

HANNAH: "I told him that Mr. and Mrs. Laurence were visiting Meg and the babies."

JO: "What! -- 0h! -- " (she rushes out the front door without coat or hat)

HANNAH: (calling after her) "It's raining something fierce out there, Miss Jo! (she turns to Marmee inquiringly) She'll catch her death..."

MARMEE (smiling broadly) "Perhaps not..."

The LIGHTS CROSSFADE to the street.


Scene 46: Under the Umbrella (Spring)

Mr. Bhaer is trodding down the muddy path, his umbrella held high in the pouring rain. After a moment, Jo follows him, holding up her skirts. The SOUND of the rain continues.

JO: "Oh, Mr. Bhaer! Mr. Bhaer!"

BHAER: "Jo!"

JO: (giving him a clutch as she reaches him, afraid the night will swallow him up) "I'm so glad to see you!" (she catches her breath)

BHAER: (concerned) "You haf no umbrella!" (he covers her with his own)

JO: "Thank you. We thought you'd gone. Why didn't you say hello?"

BHAER: (shyly) "You had a party. I did not want to be interfering."

JO: (her face beaming) "Only the family. My sister and friends have just come home."

BHAER: (hurt) "Yes, to bring you their congratulations. I gif you mine too, Jo. So, you haf married your Laurie..."

JO: "No, no, no -- my sister. My sister Amy married Laurie. In Europe."

BHAER: "Your sister? (Jo nods) And you -- you are not married?"

JO: "No. (pause) Will you stay? What has happened since I saw you last?"

BHAER: "My friends haf found for me a place in a college, where I teach as at home. For this I should be grateful, should I not?"

JO: "Indeed you should. (realizing the implication) How splendid it will be to have you doing what you like -- and to be able to see you often!"

BHAER: "Ah! But we shall not meet often, I fear, this place is at the West."

JO: (collapsing in sudden despair, then looking up questioningly) "So far away?!..."

She hangs her head down and leaves her skirts to their fate. He looks down tenderly and sees the drops on her cheeks, though she turns her head away. The sight touches him very much, for he suddenly stoops down.

BHAER: (tenderly) "You haf been ill, my friend..."

JO: "Not ill, but tired and sorrowful. We've had trouble since I saw you last."

BHAER: "Ah, yes, I know. My heart was sore for you when I heard that."

JO: (moved) "Thank you." (her eyes water)

BHAER: (after a silence) "Heart's dearest, why do you cry?"

JO: (after a moment, with an irrepressible sob) "Because you're going away!"

BHAER: (he can't help but smile lovingly) "Jo, listen me: I haf nothing but much love to gif you. I was so afraid when I heard you were 'Mrs. Laurence' ... -- but now all is well! (he starts to kneel for a proposal, thinks better of it because of the mud, but continues in words) My dear, can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?"

JO: (earnestly) "Oh yes, Friedrich, yes! (they look at each other joyfully, starting their life together, then she adds softly, thoughtfully) Why didn't you tell me all this sooner?"

BHAER: "I had a wish to tell something the day I said goodbye in New York, but I thought the handsome friend was betrothed to thee, and so I spoke not. Wouldst thou have said 'Yes', then, if I had spoken?"

JO: "I don't know. I'm afraid not, for I didn't have any heart just then."

BHAER: (dismissing her self-effacement) "Prut! That I do not believe. It was asleep till the fairy prince came through the wood, and waked it up, Professorin!"

JO: (delighted with her new name) "But what brought you, at last, just when I wanted you?"

BHAER: "This." (he takes a little worn paper out of his waistcoat pocket)

JO: (unfolding it, and looking much abashed) "My poem about Beth!

BHAER: "I found it by chance. I knew it by the names and the initials."

JO: "It's very bad poetry, but I felt it when I wrote it."

BHAER: "This -- this is writing from your heart, Jo!"

JO: "I never thought it would go where it could tell tales. How could this bring you?"

BHAER: "In it there is one little verse that seemed to call me. Read and find him. I will see that you go not in the wet."

JO: (after scanning the poem, sure this is the passage, reading shyly)

  ... A woman in a lonely home,
  Hearing, like a sad refrain--
  "Be worthy, love, and love will come",
  In the falling summer rain...

BHAER: (with a gentle smile) "Yes, I read that, and I think to myself, She has a sorrow, she is lonely, she would find comfort in true love. Well, I haf a heart full -- full for her!"

JO: (whispering) "What made you stay away so long?"

BHAER: "It was not easy, but I could not find the heart to take you from that so happy home until I could haf a prospect of one to gif you."

JO: (in a soft tone) "Oh, don't fear poverty -- I don't. I couldn't bear a rich husband! (adding resolutely) And I'm to carry my share, Friedrich, and help to earn the home: make up your mind to that, or I'll never go --"

BHAER: (crying out, quite overcome) "Ah! Thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands!"

JO: (putting both her hands into his, whispering tenderly) "Not empty now." (stooping down, she kisses him under the umbrella)

They start back to the March house in the rain, and the LIGHTS CROSSFADE to Lu and Niles.


Scene C: "The Celebrated Author..."

Lu and Niles' watch Bhaer and Jo leave. Lu is ill now and has a chronic cough.

NILES: (sighing amused) "Ah, the young ladies who wanted Jo to marry Laurie will be weeping now... (picks up "Little Women" and turns to Lu) But this book for girls you've created might have a longer life than even I had hoped..."

LU: (quite bewildered) "I don't understand it. What can there be in a simple little story like this to make people praise it so?" (coughs mildly)

NILES: (likewise mystified) "Well, whatever its secret, there's no doubt about its success: we've already sold ten thousand copies -- even London has ordered an edition."

LU: (surprised, coughing) "Ten thousand?!"

NILES: "Oh, I'm sure we'll sell another six or seven thousand before the new year. You're well on your way to becoming the celebrated author of our times!"

LU: (smiling through pain) "Yes, Father told me they now greet him on the lecture circuit not as 'the Great Philosopher of Concord', but as 'the father of Little Women'."

NILES: (smiling) "But I think you'll prove to be the breadwinner of the family. (handing her a check) Here's your first installment..."

LU: (struck at how much money it is) "But this is so much! Why, I can pay all the family debts in one fell swoop! (in a softer tone, after being astounded) Thank the Lord, now I feel as if I could die in peace. My dream is beginning to come true..." (she coughs roughly)

NILES: (concerned) "Well, let's not die in peace just yet! Are you alright?"

LU: (weakly) "What? No, writing fourteen hours a day on the book has taken its toll, I'm afraid. But the family seem so panic-stricken and helpless when I break down, so I try to keep the mill going." (she tries to rise, but collapses back into the chair)

NILES: (helping her to steady herself) "Perhaps now you won't have to... I'd hate to think you lost your health just when you've made enough money to enjoy yourself."

LU: (weakly) "It wouldn't surprise me. And all for that little book... (shakes her head, bewildered) Is it any good, I wonder?..."

As Lu looks out at the scene, the LIGHTS CROSSFADE to the March house.


Scene 47: Harvest Time (Summer)

Marmee and her girls sit together, the men nearby.

JO: "I don't think I ever ought to call myself 'unlucky Jo' again, when my greatest wish has been so beautifully gratified." (Bhaer comes up next to her)

AMY: "Yet your life is very different from the one you pictured so long ago..."

JO: "Yes, the life I wanted then seems selfish, lonely, and cold to me now. I haven't given up the hope that I may write a good book yet, but I can wait, and I'm sure it'll be all the better for experiences like these."

MEG: "I wanted splendid things, to be sure, but in my heart I knew I'd be satisfied, if I had a little home, and John, and some dear children. (Brooke comes up next to her) I've got them all, thank God, and I'm the happiest woman in the world."

AMY: "My life's different too, but, like Jo, I don't relinquish all my artistic hopes. I've begun to model a figure of baby, and Laurie says it's the best thing I've ever done." (Laurie comes up and sits next to her)

MARMEE: "Yes, I think your harvests will be good ones."

JO: (with the loving impetuosity she will never outgrow) "Not half so good as yours, Mother. Here it is, and we never can thank you enough for the patient sowing and reaping you've done!"

AMY: "I hope there'll be more wheat and fewer tares every year."

MEG: "A large sheaf, but I know there's room in your heart for it, Marmee dear."

MARMEE: (with face and voice full of motherly love, gratitude, and humility) "Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this!"

The LIGHTS FADEOUT slowly on the happy scene, but Beth and Lu look at each other across the stage in separate POOLS OF LIGHT. Lu starts coughing, and the LIGHTS FADEOUT slowly.



End of Play