The girls awake at dawn to see their mother off. As Mrs. March leaves the house, she bids her daughters to be brave, to refrain from grieving, to “[h]ope and keep busy.” She reminds them to go on “with your work as usual, for work is a blessed solace.” Mrs. March climbs into the carriage with Mr. Brooke, and they depart for the train.
The virtuousness of work and the perils of idleness will be strongly at play over the course of the next few chapters. Mrs. March’s words can be seen as a kind of foreshadowing of the lessons the girls will learn in her absence.
The house feels “half empty” to the girls after their mother leaves, but they resolve to console themselves with their work. Hannah gives the girls coffee as a treat, and Jo and Meg take their breakfast turnovers and head out to see to Aunt March and the Kings.
For once, the burden of dealing with Aunt March and the fractious King children comes as a relief to Jo and Meg. Work serves as a distraction and a means of cultivating virtue.
The girls, Hannah, Laurie, and Mr. Laurence all write letters to Mrs. March. In their letters, the March girls tell Mrs. March about how they haven’t forgotten her lessons. (Jo, for instance, tells Marmee that she recently battled with her temper in a quarrel with Laurie.) Hannah, Laurie, and Mr. Laurence reassure Mrs. March that her daughters are safe and doing well.
The bulk of the chapter is given over to letters from each of the characters who have stayed behind. Mr. Laurence’s letter underscores his patriarchal role – he serves as a distant (yet loving), moneyed power figure.