Three years have passed since the last chapter. The Civil War is over and Mr. March is at home permanently.
Mr. March spends his time quietly studying his books, but he's also a resource for everyone in the community. People come to him to confess their problems and ask for guidance. Even though his wife and four daughters are the most active, he's still the wise head of the household.
Mrs. March is a little older and spends most of her time helping Meg, who is getting ready for her wedding.
John Brooke has served in the army for a year, gotten wounded, and been sent home as an invalid. He works hard as a bookkeeper for Mr. Laurence and starts building a metaphorical nest egg to support Meg.
Meg has spent the three years learning to be an even better housewife. She's a little jealous of Sallie Gardiner and Ned Moffat, who have gotten married and are busy being rich and idle together, but she's also very excited to move into a little cottage with John.
Amy replaces Jo as Aunt March's companion. Jo spends her time writing for newspapers and taking care of Beth, who remains sickly.
Laurie is in college, where he has a lot of friends and doesn't work all that hard. He lives a crazy college-kid life, but his friendship with the March family keeps him honest and moral.
Laurie often brings his college friends home. Amy and Jo like them a lot – Amy because she can be the only pretty girl in a big group of guys who fawn over her, and Jo because she feels like one of the guys.
John Brooke has prepared a little cottage as his first home with Meg. The family calls it "The Dovecote" – it was pretty typical for people to name their houses in the nineteenth century.
The Dovecote is a tiny little house with a very small yard, and John and the March girls do most of the interior decorating themselves, but it's even more beautiful because it has a personal touch.
Laurie tries to help by buying the latest labor-saving household inventions. This is a source of much comic relief and everyone laughs at the weird stuff he finds.
Finally, the entire house is furnished and everything is arranged perfectly. Mrs. March and Meg walk through it one last time to make sure that Meg is happy with it.
Amy wishes that Meg could have a servant – most upper- and middle-class families did at this time in history because there was so much housework to do. Meg says that she and her mother have talked about it and she's going to try keeping house on her own first. They both think that staying idle is morally wrong.
Mrs. March says that when she was first married, she used to wish her clothes would tear so that she could do something useful and mend them. Finally she started working in the kitchen and had Hannah teach her how to cook. Then, when the Marches lost their money, she was able to start doing more household tasks. Even if Meg and John get rich, she says, it's good to know how things are done.
The girls take a look at Meg's linen closet, which is stocked full of lots of fancy table cloths, sheets, napkins, and so on. They all laugh about it, because the linen is all from Aunt March, but she made Aunt Carrol give the gift so that she wouldn't look like she had gone back on her promise that she wouldn't give Meg any money if she married John Brooke.
Laurie arrives at the cottage. He gives Meg a package and greets each of the girls in his own way. He says that John has stopped to get the marriage license.
Meg unwraps the package and finds a watchman's rattle – a loud noisemaker to call help if you get frightened or attacked. Laurie swings it around to make it rattle and everyone laughs and has to cover their ears.
Laurie wants everyone to leave the cottage and go eat something. Meg and Mrs. March are staying there to wait for John and Amy and Beth are going to see Amy's friend Kitty to get flowers for the wedding. Jo and Laurie walk home together on their own.
Jo makes Laurie promise to behave himself at the wedding and not pull any practical jokes or say anything rude. Laurie just laughs at her worries.
Jo can tell that something is bothering Laurie and asks what it is. Laurie says he needs to ask his grandfather for money because he runs out. Jo says that he is too generous to his friends – apparently he gave a bunch of money to a poor friend who was struggling in college.
Jo says that Laurie spends too much money on fancy clothes. Laurie laughs and tells her to stop lecturing.
Laurie tells Jo that one of his friends is in love with Amy. Jo says that they don't want any more marrying in the family anytime soon. Laurie says Jo will be next, and she says that she's going to be an old maid.
Laurie says Jo won't give anyone the chance to love her. Jo says that she's too busy for romantic nonsense and doesn't like the way weddings break up families.
Laurie repeats to himself that Jo will be next to get married.