“What a sly fellow Laurie is! I said I wished bigger hats were the fashion, because I burn my face every hot day. He said, ‘Why mind the fashion? Wear a big hat, and be comfortable!’ I said I would if I had one, and he has sent me this, to try me. I’ll wear it for fun, and show him I don’t care for the fashion.” And hanging the antique broad-brim on a bust of Plato, Jo read her letters.
One from her mother made her cheeks glow and her eyes fill, for it said to her…
I write a little word to tell you with how much satisfaction I watch your efforts to control your temper. You say nothing about your trials, failures, or successes, and think, perhaps, that no one sees them but the Friend whose help you daily ask, if I may trust the well-worn cover of your guidebook. I, too, have seen them all, and heartily believe in the sincerity of your resolution, since it begins to bear fruit. Go on, dear, patiently and bravely, and always believe that no one sympathizes more tenderly with you than your loving…
“That does me good! That’s worth millions of money and pecks of praise. Oh, Marmee, I do try! I will keep on trying, and not get tired, since I have you to help me.”
Laying her head on her arms, Jo wet her little romance with a few happy tears, for she had thought that no one saw and appreciated her efforts to be good, and this assurance was doubly precious, doubly encouraging, because unexpected and from the person whose commendation she most valued. Feeling stronger than ever to meet and subdue her Apollyon, she pinned the note inside her frock, as a shield and a reminder, lest she be taken unaware, and proceeded to open her other letter, quite ready for either good or bad news. In a big, dashing hand, Laurie wrote…
Dear Jo, What ho!
Some english girls and boys are coming to see me tomorrow and I want to have a jolly time. If it’s fine, I’m going to pitch my tent in Longmeadow, and row up the whole crew to lunch and croquet—have a fire, make messes, gypsy fashion, and all sorts of larks. They are nice people, and like such things. Brooke will go to keep us boys steady, and Kate Vaughn will play propriety for the girls. I want you all to come, can’t let Beth off at any price, and nobody shall worry her. Don’t bother about rations, I’ll see to that and everything else, only do come, there’s a good fellow!
In a tearing hurry, Yours ever, Laurie.
“Here’s richness!” cried Jo, flying in to tell the news to Meg.
“Of course we can go, Mother? It will be such a help to Laurie, for I can row, and Meg see to the lunch, and the children be useful in some way.”
“I hope the Vaughns are not fine grown-up people. Do you know anything about them, Jo?” asked Meg.
“Only that there are four of them. Kate is older than you, Fred and Frank (twins) about my age, and a little girl (Grace), who is nine or ten. Laurie knew them abroad, and liked the boys. I fancied, from the way he primmed up his mouth in speaking of her, that he didn’t admire Kate much.”
“I’m so glad my French print is clean, it’s just the thing and so becoming!” observed Meg complacently. “Have you anything decent, Jo?”
“Scarlet and gray boating suit, good enough for me. I shall row and tramp about, so I don’t want any starch to think of. You’ll come, Betty?”
“If you won’t let any boys talk to me.”
“Not a boy!”
“I like to please Laurie, and I’m not afraid of Mr. Brooke, he is so kind. But I don’t want to play, or sing, or say anything. I’ll work hard and not trouble anyone, and you’ll take care of me, Jo, so I’ll go.”
“That’s my good girl. You do try to fight off your shyness, and I love you for it. Fighting faults isn’t easy, as I know, and a cheery word kind of gives a lift. Thank you, Mother,” And Jo gave the thin cheek a grateful kiss, more precious to Mrs. March than if it had given back the rosy roundness of her youth.
“I had a box of chocolate drops, and the picture I wanted to copy,” said Amy, showing her mail.
“And I got a note from Mr. Laurence, asking me to come over and play to him tonight, before the lamps are lighted, and I shall go,” added Beth, whose friendship with the old gentleman prospered finely.
“Now let’s fly round, and do double duty today, so that we can play tomorrow with free minds,” said Jo, preparing to replace her pen with a broom.