gesture of the right arm.
“That’s nothing. I often shake you, and you don’t mind,” said Jo soothingly.
“Pooh! You’re a girl, and it’s fun, but I’ll allow no man to shake me!”
“I don’t think anyone would care to try it, if you looked as much like a thundercloud as you do now. Why were you treated so?”
“Just because I wouldn’t say what your mother wanted me for. I’d promised not to tell, and of course I wasn’t going to break my word.”
“Couldn’t you satisfy your grandpa in any other way?”
“No, he would have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I’d have told my part of the scrape, if I could without bringing Meg in. As I couldn’t, I held my tongue, and bore the scolding till the old gentleman collared me. Then I bolted, for fear I should forget myself.”
“It wasn’t nice, but he’s sorry, I know, so go down and make up. I’ll help you.”
“Hanged if I do! I’m not going to be lectured and pummelled by everyone, just for a bit of a frolic. I was sorry about Meg, and begged pardon like a man, but I won’t do it again, when I wasn’t in the wrong.”
“He didn’t know that.”
“He ought to trust me, and not act as if I was a baby. It’s no use, Jo, he’s got to learn that I’m able to take care of myself, and don’t need anyone’s apron string to hold on by.”
“What pepper pots you are!” sighed Jo. “How do you mean to settle this affair?”
“Well, he ought to beg pardon, and believe me when I say I can’t tell him what the fuss’s about.”
“Bless you! He won’t do that.”
“I won’t go down till he does.”
“Now, Teddy, be sensible. Let it pass, and I’ll explain what I can. You can’t stay here, so what’s the use of being melodramatic?”
“I don’t intend to stay here long, anyway. I’ll slip off and take a journey somewhere, and when Grandpa misses me he’ll come round fast enough.”
“I dare say, but you ought not to go and worry him.”
“Don’t preach. I’ll go to Washington and see Brooke. It’s gay there, and I’ll enjoy myself after the troubles.”
“What fun you’d have! I wish I could run off too,” said Jo, forgetting her part of mentor in lively visions of martial life at the capital.
“Come on, then! Why not? You go and surprise your father, and I’ll stir up old Brooke. It would be a glorious joke. Let’s do it, Jo. We’ll leave a letter saying we are all right, and trot off at once. I’ve got money enough. It will do you good, and no harm, as you go to your father.”
For a moment Jo looked as if she would agree, for wild as the plan was, it just suited her. She was tired of care and confinement, longed for change, and thoughts of her father blended temptingly with the novel charms of camps and hospitals, liberty and fun. Her eyes kindled as they turned wistfully toward the window, but they fell on the old house opposite, and she shook her head with sorrowful decision.
“If I was a boy, we’d run away together, and have a capital time, but as I’m a miserable girl, I must be proper and stop at home. Don’t tempt me, Teddy, it’s a crazy plan.”
“That’s the fun of it,” began Laurie, who had got a willful fit on him and was possessed to break out of bounds in some way.
“Hold your tongue!” cried Jo, covering her ears. “‘Prunes and prisms’ are my doom, and I may as well make up my mind to it. I came here to moralize, not to hear things that make me skip to think of.”
“I know Meg would wet-blanket such a proposal, but I thought you had more spirit,” began Laurie insinuatingly.
“Bad boy, be quiet! Sit down and think of your own sins, don’t go making me add to mine. If I get your grandpa to apologize for the shaking, will you give up running away?” asked Jo seriously.
“Yes, but you won’t do it,” answered Laurie, who wished to make up, but felt that his outraged dignity must be appeased first.
“If I can manage the young one, I can the old one,” muttered Jo, as she walked away, leaving Laurie bent over a railroad map with his head propped up on both hands.
“Come in!” and Mr. Laurence’s gruff voice sounded gruffer than ever, as Jo tapped at his door.
“It’s only me, Sir, come to return a book,” she said blandly, as she entered.
“Want any more?” asked the old gentleman, looking grim and vexed, but trying not to show it.
“Yes, please. I like old Sam so well, I think I’ll try the second volume,” returned Jo, hoping to propitiate him by accepting a second dose of Boswell’s Johnson, as he had recommended that lively work.
The shaggy eyebrows unbent a little as he rolled the steps toward the shelf where the Johnsonian literature was placed. Jo skipped up, and sitting on the top step, affected to be searching for her book, but was really wondering how best to introduce the dangerous object of her visit. Mr. Laurence seemed to suspect that something was brewing in her mind, for after taking several brisk turns about the room, he faced round on her, speaking so abruptly that Rasselas tumbled face downward on the floor.
“What has that boy been about? Don’t try to shield him. I know he has been in mischief by the way he acted when he came home. I can’t get a word from him, and when I threatened to shake the truth out of him he bolted upstairs and locked himself into his room.”