Little Women Chapter 36
Since she had been away for a while, when Jo comes home from New York, she notices a change in Beth that must have been so gradual that her family didn't see it. Beth looks thinner and weaker and empty. Once Laurie has gone, there was peace again. But the anxiety about Beth returns.
Jo takes Beth to the seashore, hoping to put color back into her face. At the seashore, Jo begins to realize that Beth is fading away. One day, Beth tells her the secret that she has been keeping. They are on some rocks together near the ocean. Jo stares at Beth's face hoping to just see a little color, thinking that Beth is asleep. Then she realizes that Beth is fading and clutches her harder. "For a minute her eyes were too dim for seeing, and, when they cleared, Beth was looking up at her so tenderly that there was hardly any need for her to say, 'Jo, dear, I'm glad you know it. I've tried to tell you, but I couldn't.'" Chapter 36, pg. 438 Beth says that she gave up hoping in the autumn, when that Jo mistakenly believed that Beth's secret was that she loved Laurie. Jo tells her this. Beth says that she thought that Jo was in love with Laurie but Jo says that she will not marry Laurie, and that Amy is the only one left for him. Beth asks Jo to tell her secret to the rest of the family, but Jo knows they will see it on Beth's face when they return home. Not giving up hope, Jo insists that Beth will be rosy again when Amy comes home in the spring.
There is no hope left, Beth insists, and her family knows this when she comes home. They know this unconsciously when they see he and they all, especially Jo, dedicate themselves to making her happy.