brightened the quiet rooms ; everything appeared to feel the hopeful change ; Beth's bird began to chirp again, and a half-blown rose was discovered on Amy's bush in the window ; the fires seemed to burn with unusual cheeriness, and every time the girls met their pale faces broke into smiles as they hugged one another, whispering, encouragingly, " Mother's coming, dear ! mother's coming ! " Every one rejoiced but Beth ; she lay in that heavy stupor, alike unconscious of hope and joy, doubt and danger. It was a piteous sight, — the once rosy face so changed and vacant, — the once busy hands so weak and wasted, — the once smiling lips quite dumb, — and the once pretty, well-kept hair scattered rough and tangled on the pillow. All day she lay so, only rousing now and then to mutter, " Water ! " with lips so parched they could hardly shape the word ; all day Jo and Meg hovered over her, watching, waiting, hoping, and trusting in God and mother; and all day the snow fell, the bitter wind raged, and the hours dragged slowly by. But night came at last; and every time the clock struck the sisters, still sitting on either side the bed, looked at each other with brightening eyes, for each hour brought help nearer. The doctor had been in to say that some change for better or worse would probably take place about midnight, at which time he would return.
Hannah, quite worn out, lay down on the sofa at the bed's foot, and fell fast asleep ; Mr. Laurence marched to and fro in the parlor, feeling that he would rather face a rebel battery than Mrs. March's anxious countenance as she entered ; Laurie lay on the rug,