“I’m afraid Laurie is hardly grown-up enough for Meg, and altogether too much of a weathercock just now for anyone to depend on. Don’t make plans, Jo, but let time and their own hearts mate your friends. We can’t meddle safely in such matters, and had better not get ‘romantic rubbish’ as you call it, into our heads, lest it spoil our friendship.”
“Well, I won’t, but I hate to see things going all crisscross and getting snarled up, when a pull here and a snip there would straighten it out. I wish wearing flatirons on our heads would keep us from growing up. But buds will be roses, and kittens cats, more’s the pity!”
“What’s that about flatirons and cats?” asked Meg, as she crept into the room with the finished letter in her hand.
“Only one of my stupid speeches. I’m going to bed. Come, Peggy,” said Jo, unfolding herself like an animated puzzle.
“Quite right, and beautifully written. Please add that I send my love to John,” said Mrs. March, as she glanced over the letter and gave it back.
“Do you call him ‘John’?” asked Meg, smiling, with her innocent eyes looking down into her mother’s.
“Yes, he has been like a son to us, and we are very fond of him,” replied Mrs. March, returning the look with a keen one.
“I’m glad of that, he is so lonely. Good night, Mother, dear. It is so inexpressibly comfortable to have you here,” was Meg’s answer.
The kiss her mother gave her was a very tender one, and as she went away, Mrs. March said, with a mixture of satisfaction and regret, “She does not love John yet, but will soon learn to.”
Laurie Makes Mischief, and Jo Makes Peace
Jo’s face was a study next day, for the secret rather weighed upon her, and she found it hard not to look mysterious and important. Meg observed it, but did not trouble herself to make inquiries, for she had learned that the best way to manage Jo was by the law of contraries, so she felt sure of being told everything if she did not ask. She was rather surprised, therefore, when the silence remained unbroken, and Jo assumed a patronizing air, which decidedly aggravated Meg, who in turn assumed an air of dignified reserve and devoted herself to her mother. This left Jo to her own devices, for Mrs. March had taken her place as nurse, and bade her rest, exercise, and amuse herself after her long confinement. Amy being gone, Laurie was her only refuge, and much as she enjoyed his society, she rather dreaded him just then, for he was an incorrigible tease, and she feared he would coax the secret from her.
She was quite right, for the mischief-loving lad no sooner suspected a mystery than he set himself to find it out, and led Jo a trying life of it. He wheedled, bribed, ridiculed, threatened, and scolded; affected indifference, that he might surprise the truth from her; declared he knew, then that he didn’t care; and at last, by dint of perseverance, he satisfied himself that it concerned Meg and Mr. Brooke. Feeling indignant that he was not taken into his tutor’s confidence, he set his wits to work to devise some proper retaliation for the slight.
Meg meanwhile had apparently forgotten the matter and was absorbed in preparations for her father’s return, but all of a sudden a change seemed to come over her, and, for a day or two, she was quite unlike herself. She started when spoken to, blushed when looked at, was very quiet, and sat over her sewing, with a timid, troubled look on her face. To her mother’s inquiries she answered that she was quite well, and Jo’s she silenced by begging to be let alone.
“She feels it in the air—love, I mean—and she’s going very fast. She’s got most of the symptoms—is twittery and cross, doesn’t eat, lies awake, and mopes in corners. I caught her singing that song he gave her, and once she said ‘John’, as you do, and then turned as red as a poppy. Whatever shall we do?” said Jo, looking ready for any measures, however violent.
“Nothing but wait. Let her alone, be kind and patient, and Father’s coming will settle everything,” replied her mother.
“Here’s a note to you, Meg, all sealed up. How odd! Teddy never seals mine,” said Jo next day, as she distributed the contents of the little post office.
Mrs. March and Jo were deep in their own affairs, when a sound from Meg made them look up to see her staring at her note with a frightened face.
“My child, what is it?” cried her mother, running to her, while Jo tried to take the paper which had done the mischief.