It so happened that Beth’s funny loan was just the thing, for in laughing over the kits, Laurie forgot his bashfulness, and grew sociable at once.
“That looks too pretty to eat,” he said, smiling with pleasure, as Jo uncovered the dish, and showed the blanc mange, surrounded by a garland of green leaves, and the scarlet flowers of Amy’s pet geranium.
“It isn’t anything, only they all felt kindly and wanted to show it. Tell the girl to put it away for your tea. It’s so simple you can eat it, and being soft, it will slip down without hurting your sore throat. What a cozy room this is!”
“It might be if it was kept nice, but the maids are lazy, and I don’t know how to make them mind. It worries me though.”
“I’ll right it up in two minutes, for it only needs to have the hearth brushed, so—and the things made straight on the mantelpiece, so—and the books put here, and the bottles there, and your sofa turned from the light, and the pillows plumped up a bit. Now then, you’re fixed.”
And so he was, for, as she laughed and talked, Jo had whisked things into place and given quite a different air to the room. Laurie watched her in respectful silence, and when she beckoned him to his sofa, he sat down with a sigh of satisfaction, saying gratefully…
“How kind you are! Yes, that’s what it wanted. Now please take the big chair and let me do something to amuse my company.”
“No, I came to amuse you. Shall I read aloud?” and Jo looked affectionately toward some inviting books near by.
“Thank you! I’ve read all those, and if you don’t mind, I’d rather talk,” answered Laurie.
“Not a bit. I’ll talk all day if you’ll only set me going. Beth says I never know when to stop.”
“Is Beth the rosy one, who stays at home good deal and sometimes goes out with a little basket?” asked Laurie with interest.
“Yes, that’s Beth. She’s my girl, and a regular good one she is, too.”
“The pretty one is Meg, and the curly-haired one is Amy, I believe?”
“How did you find that out?”
Laurie colored up, but answered frankly, “Why, you see I often hear you calling to one another, and when I’m alone up here, I can’t help looking over at your house, you always seem to be having such good times. I beg your pardon for being so rude, but sometimes you forget to put down the curtain at the window where the flowers are. And when the lamps are lighted, it’s like looking at a picture to see the fire, and you all around the table with your mother. Her face is right opposite, and it looks so sweet behind the flowers, I can’t help watching it. I haven’t got any mother, you know.” And Laurie poked the fire to hide a little twitching of the lips that he could not control.
The solitary, hungry look in his eyes went straight to Jo’s warm heart. She had been so simply taught that there was no nonsense in her head, and at fifteen she was as innocent and frank as any child. Laurie was sick and lonely, and feeling how rich she was in home and happiness, she gladly tried to share it with him. Her face was very friendly and her sharp voice unusually gentle as she said…