Meg notices that she’s missing a glove. Beth brings in the mail from the P.O. Laurie has sent Meg a translation of a German song done by his tutor, Mr. Brooke. In a letter to Jo, Laurie invites the March girls to go for a gypsy camp-style lunch in Longmeadow with Laurie’s English friends the Vaughns. The girls agree to go.
The missing glove and the translation of the German song will come into play later on. It’s implied that Laurie’s friends, the Vaughns, are from the upper crust of English society; they will stand in contrast to the poor (but virtuous) March girls in this chapter.
The March girls set out to Laurie’s house, where they meet up with Mr. Brooke, Sallie Gardiner and Ned Moffat (who came out to see Meg), and the Vaughns: twenty-year-old Kate (who acts as chaperone), twins Fred and Ned, and Grace. They all get into boats and row down the river to Longmeadow, where tents, lunch, and croquet await them. “Welcome to Camp Laurence!” Laurie declares when they land.
The inclusion of a chapter such as this – one in which the March girls are allowed to indulge in the pleasures of the leisure class – works both as a means of providing her readers with a vicarious thrill (many readers would be charmed by the novelty of the Vaughns) and as a means of providing a lesson in morality.
A croquet game commences. Fred cheats during the match, testing Jo’s patience and temper. Jo takes the high ground, and manages to beat Fred anyway in spite of his cheating ways. After lunch, the group makes up a story together and plays a truth-telling game. After this is over, Meg watches Kate draw on her sketchpad. They start talking, and Meg reveals to Kate that she works as a governess. Kate is appalled. Mr. Brooke comes to Meg’s rescue, citing that American girls, unlike the English, are “admired and respected for supporting themselves.”
It’s implied here that Jo’s virtue is in part due to her working class status. Fred’s willingness to lie echoes the notion from the previous chapter that idleness breeds sin. Mr. Brooke’s assertion that women are admired for being able to earn a living is clearly feminist. It was a controversial idea at the time of this book’s publication; Kate’s reaction illustrates this.
Mr. Brooke asks Meg if she liked the song translation Laurie sent her earlier that day. Kate asks Meg if she reads German. “Not very well,” Meg shyly replies. Mr. Brooke asks Meg to read a passage from Schiller’s Mary Stuart, with the promise of tutoring her. Kate shows off by reading a passage from the book in a flawless accent. Meg then tries it – her reading is flawed, but Mr. Brooke clearly enjoys her reading of the passage much, much more. Kate leaves in a huff. Meg comments on Kate’s condescending attitude toward governesses. Mr. Brooke replies, “There’s no place like America for us workers…”
Mr. Brooke’s romantic interest in Meg is indicated in this passage. The contrast between Meg and Kate is indicative of Alcott’s notion of ideal femininity. Mr. Brooke’s approval of Meg’s working class status (similar to Major Lincoln’s approval of Meg in Chapter 9) is the “right” kind of male attention, given that Mr. Brooke is honorable and educated. This is feminist insofar as it rewards Meg for being capable of supporting herself, and patriarchal insofar as she’s being awarded with male attention and approval!
At the end of the day, when the rest of the group is singing songs, Ned sings a sentimental serenade to Meg, which she finds hysterical. He scolds her for snubbing him. “How can you be so cruel to me?” he whispers. Ned observes to Sallie that Meg isn’t a flirt.
Meg’s simplicity and virtue makes her immune to Ned’s flirty behavior. It’s implied here that flirtation (or a certain kind of flirtation, at any rate) is disingenuous; Meg’s genuine nature is clearly preferable to Ned’s flirtatious ways.