Ordinarily, Mrs. March did not approve of corporal punishment, especially for girls, but at that moment, as she looked at Amy, she was greatly tempted to turn her over her knee.
Meg had sadly greeted Mrs. March a few minutes ago with the news that Amy had burned the book of fairy tales which Jo had been working on for several years, and had hoped to finish before Mr. March came home.
Once, only once, several years ago, Mrs. March had resorted to corporal punishment; she had whipped Jo for being in a temper. When she had finished,Jo had turned around and said, "Well, you are mad yourself, and ought to be whipped as much as me."
She had never forgotten how ashamed Jo's words had made her feel. She had resolved that never again would she use physical punishment on one of her daughters.
But now Mrs. March pondered whether she ought to do what had never thought she would do again. But would that do any good? Would it bring Amy to a sense of the wrong she had done her sister? Mrs. March prayed silently for wisdom, for guidance.
"Amy," she said at last, "I am very sorry about this."
"Do you mean you are sorry for Jo?
"Yes, I feel sorry for Jo because her book has been destroyed, but I feel even more sorry about the vindictiveness of your actions."
"She should have taken me to see "The Seven Castles" when she went with Meg and Laurie," Amy said stubbornly.
"Amy," Mrs. March said, "suppose you had gone, and Jo had been left at home instead of you. And then suppose that she had burned up your paintings, or smashed your clay models. How would you feel?"
Amy shook her blonde head. She couldn't speak just then.
"I suppose," she said at last, "I ought to be punished, Marmee."
"I'm glad you realize that," Mrs. March answered. "What do you think your punishment should be?"
"I don't know," Amy replied, surprised at the question. "Maybe I should give Jo the rag money, next time it is my turn to have it."
"That won't be for a few weeks," Mrs. March reminded her.
"Then maybe I could do Jo's chores for the next week," Amy suggested.
"I don't think that would do," Mrs. March said, "for two reasons. Jo likes to work, and," she added, "work should never be used as a punishment."
"Well, I know you won't confine me to the house.""No; fresh air is too important to your health. There are," Mrs. March said, "only two punishments I can think of for what you did. One would be to forbid you to see "The Seven Castles" when Beth and Hannah go next week."
"Please, Marmee, not that," Amy pleaded. "I've wanted to see it for so long."
"I said that there were two punishments I could think of," Mrs March reminded her. "I'll let you choose between them."
"What would the other punishment be?" Amy asked.
Mrs. March told her what the alternative to missing "The Seven Castles" would be.
"Think carefully before you decide."
Amy thought carefully, and then said, "Marmee, I've decided."
When the tea bell rang, Jo appeared, looking so grim that it took all Amy's courage to say meekly-"Please forgive me, Jo, I'm very, very sorry." She rubbedher backside and winced.
Jo looked at Marmee questioningly, remembering the incident from several years ago.
Mrs. March nodded her head and whispered, "This time was different."