Chapter 15 Summary

Summer fades and a dreary fall arrives. On one particularly foul day, the girls sit together complaining that they hate November. They try to cheer themselves up, but soon they receive bad news. Hannah enters with a telegram from Washington that says Father is gravely ill. Marmee reads it and collapses into her chair, saying, “Oh, I shall go at once, but it may be too late. Oh, children, children, help me to bear it!”

Everyone rushes to help Marmee get ready. Laurie and the girls help her pack and run errands. Aunt March lends money—but she also sends a note criticizing Marmee for letting Father join the army in the first place. Mr. Laurence gives Marmee some wine to use as medicine and offers to protect the girls in her absence.

During this conversation, Mr. Laurence realizes that Marmee would feel more comfortable if she did not have to travel alone. He leaves, and shortly afterward Mr. Brooke stops by to tell Meg that he needs to do some business for Mr. Laurence in Washington. He offers to escort Mrs. March and watch over her on her journey. Meg is overcome with gratitude, and she finds herself feeling attracted to Mr. Brooke. This makes her uncomfortable, so she rushes out to tell Marmee the good news.

Late that afternoon, the family notices Jo is missing. When she returns, she gives Marmee $25 to help pay for the trip. This is an enormous sum for a girl to produce, so Marmee asks how she got it. Jo says, “I earned it, and I don’t think you’ll blame me, for I only sold what was my own.” She takes off her cap and shows the family that she has sold her hair.

Everyone is amazed at Jo’s sacrifice. She is not a vain girl, but she has always been proud of her beautiful hair. She insists that she does not mind giving it up for Father’s sake. As everyone crowds around her, she explains that she felt she had to do something to help. She saw some wigs for sale at the barbershop, and she asked the barber to buy her hair. He was reluctant at first but agreed when he heard the story about Father’s illness.

That night, everyone goes to bed early. Meg lies awake, alternately worrying about Father and thinking about Mr. Brooke’s handsome eyes. In the middle of the night she hears a sob and finds Jo crying. At first Meg thinks Jo is upset about Father, but Jo admits that she is grieving the loss of her hair. She insists that she would sell it again in a minute, but she is still sad that it is gone. Meg comforts her, and both girls go to sleep.