Dark days

Words: 501-600

Skills: Context Clues Figurative Language Summary

Grades: 4th 5th 6th

Topics: Realistic Fiction

Genres: Prose

Lexile Range:

Lexile Measure:

CCSS: Reading: Literature

Themes:

Dark Days


by Louisa May Alcott from Little Women

Chapter Eighteen passage: In this passage from Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," it's a difficult time for the March family. Little Beth is very sick while Marmee is away. Students will read the passage and respond to questions on the language and the plot.

Reading Comprehension Passage

Dark Days

by Louisa May Alcott from Little Women
Little Women is about the four March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) growing up during the Civil War. In this passage, it's a difficult time for the March family. Mrs. March is with Mr. March who has been sick in Washington D.C. Little Beth is seriously ill, and Jo and Meg must help Hannah, the housekeeper, nurse her. It's late at night and they are keeping watch at Beth's sickbed.

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Here the clock struck twelve, and both forgot themselves in watching Beth, for they fancied a change passed over her wan face. The house was still as death, and nothing but the wailing of the wind broke the deep hush. Weary Hannah slept on, and no one but the sisters saw the pale shadow which seemed to fall upon the little bed. An hour went by, and nothing happened except Laurie's quiet departure for the station. Another hour, still no one came, and anxious fears of delay in the storm, or accidents by the way, or, worst of all, a great grief at Washington, haunted the girls.

It was past two, when Jo, who stood at the window thinking how dreary the world looked in its winding sheet of snow, heard a movement by the bed, and turning quickly, saw Meg kneeling before their mother's easy chair with her face hidden. A dreadful fear passed coldly over Jo, as she thought, "Beth is dead, and Meg is afraid to tell me."

She was back at her post in an instant, and to her excited eyes a great change seemed to have taken place. The fever flush and the look of pain were gone, and the beloved little face looked so pale and peaceful in its utter repose that Jo felt no desire to weep or to lament. Leaning low over this dearest of her sisters, she kissed the damp forehead with her heart on her lips, and softly whispered, "Good-by, my Beth. Good-by!"

As if awaked by the stir, Hannah started out of her sleep, hurried to the bed, looked at Beth, felt her hands, listened at her lips, and then, throwing her apron over her head, sat down to rock to and fro, exclaiming, under her breath, "The fever's turned, she's sleepin' nat'ral, her skin's damp, and she breathes easy. Praise be given! Oh, my goodness me!"

Before the girls could believe the happy truth, the doctor came to confirm it. He was a homely man, but they thought his face quite heavenly when he smiled and said, with a fatherly look at them, "Yes, my dears, I think the little girl will pull through this time. Keep the house quiet, let her sleep, and when she wakes, give her..."

What they were to give, neither heard, for both crept into the dark hall, and, sitting on the stairs, held each other close, rejoicing with hearts too full for words. When they went back to be kissed and cuddled by faithful Hannah, they found Beth lying, as she used to do, with her cheek pillowed on her hand, the dreadful pallor gone, and breathing quietly, as if just fallen asleep.

Passage Only

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. Explain this simile: "The house was still as death."



2. What at first did Jo think happened to Beth?



3. Why did Jo feel "no desire to weep or to lament"?



4. What does pallor mean here: "the dreadful pallor gone"?