Chapter 16: Marmee and Mr. Brooke left the next morning for Washington D.C. and for the next week, they wrote letters back and forth between the girls and their mother. Father was recovering, and Meg having to take over the position in the head of the household, was doing well. Jo sent a straightforward letter describing her life, and the quarrel she had with Laurie. She also sent a poem for father. Beth, Amy, and Hannah all wrote letters as well informing Mr. and Mrs. March of recent events. Mr. Laurence sent one as well saying that if she needed anything, do not hesitate to contact him.
Chapter 17: Everyone had spent the first week of Marmee's absence being perfect angels, but after that, things began falling apart. Jo caught a cold, and Aunt March told her to go home until it was better. Meg sewed most of the day, but did not get much done because her mind was other places. Beth came in one afternoon when Meg was sewing and Jo writing a story and asked if one of them would go check on the Hummels. The Hummels were a poor family that Marmee usually went to help everyday. Beth said she had gone everyday and was tired, but both Jo and Meg put off the task to pursue their own interests. Beth later decided to go again, and when she came home, she told Jo that the Hummels baby had scarlet fever and had died in her arms. Jo and Meg had both had the illness before so were in no danger, but Beth had not and became sick. Amy also had not so they ordered her to go to Aunt March's until Beth was better. She refused, but when Laurie was apprised of the situation, he convinced her to go. Hannah told the girls not to telegram their mother because she did not think it would be very bad, and wanted not to add more stress on the parents. They called the doctor, and Laurie and Jo delivered Amy to Aunt March who agreed to let her stay.
Chapter 18: The March house was grave as Beth's illness continued. The doctor came everyday to check on her while Hannah and Jo kept watch over and nursed her. Beth was Jo's pet and Jo was devastated by the potential loss of her. Everyone who knew her was asking how she was doing and no one had known Beth had so many people as friends. One day the doctor came and told Jo to telegram their mother. Beth was doing very poorly and if her mother was going to come, it must be right away. Jo, having a telegram prepared, ran off to send it. She told Laurie the news then held his hand and cried. She took comfort in his closeness and after her tears abated Laurie told her the good news. He and his grandfather had decided that Mother should have been called for the day before, and they sent out a telegram. They received one back from Mr. Brooke saying she would be home on the late night train, around two a.m. Jo was overjoyed and ran into his arms. He hugged her, then even kissed her, which she shied away. She told everyone the news and they were delighted and waiting for their Mother to come. The doctor said around midnight Beth would either take a turn for the better or for the worst. When midnight came, they waited for some sign until finally Beth became still. She was sleeping soundly, breathing easy, and her fever had disappeared. Everyone rejoiced, and as they were doing so, Marmee arrived with Laurie.