“Nonsense, that’s of no use.”
“Wait and see if it doesn’t bring you something worth having,” replied the boy, laughing at the thought of a charming little secret which he fancied he knew.
Meg colored behind the brake, but asked no questions and looked across the river with the same expectant expression which Mr. Brooke had worn when he told the story of the knight.
“If we are all alive ten years hence, let’s meet, and see how many of us have got our wishes, or how much nearer we are then than now,” said Jo, always ready with a plan.
“Bless me! How old I shall be, twenty-seven!” exclaimed Meg, who felt grown up already, having just reached seventeen.
“You and I will be twenty-six, Teddy, Beth twenty-four, and Amy twenty-two. What a venerable party!” said Jo.
“I hope I shall have done something to be proud of by that time, but I’m such a lazy dog, I’m afraid I shall dawdle, Jo.”
“You need a motive, Mother says, and when you get it, she is sure you’ll work splendidly.”
“Is she? By Jupiter, I will, if I only get the chance!” cried Laurie, sitting up with sudden energy. “I ought to be satisfied to please Grandfather, and I do try, but it’s working against the grain, you see, and comes hard. He wants me to be an India merchant, as he was, and I’d rather be shot. I hate tea and silk and spices, and every sort of rubbish his old ships bring, and I don’t care how soon they go to the bottom when I own them. Going to college ought to satisfy him, for if I give him four years he ought to let me off from the business. But he’s set, and I’ve got to do just as he did, unless I break away and please myself, as my father did. If there was anyone left to stay with the old gentleman, I’d do it tomorrow.”
Laurie spoke excitedly, and looked ready to carry his threat into execution on the slightest provocation, for he was growing up very fast and, in spite of his indolent ways, had a young man’s hatred of subjection, a young man’s restless longing to try the world for himself.
“I advise you to sail away in one of your ships, and never come home again till you have tried your own way,” said Jo, whose imagination was fired by the thought of such a daring exploit, and whose sympathy was excited by what she called ‘Teddy’s Wrongs’.
“That’s not right, Jo. You mustn’t talk in that way, and Laurie mustn’t take your bad advice. You should do just what your grandfather wishes, my dear boy,” said Meg in her most maternal tone. “Do your best at college, and when he sees that you try to please him, I’m sure he won’t be hard on you or unjust to you. As you say, there is no one else to stay with and love him, and you’d never forgive yourself if you left him without his permission. Don’t be dismal or fret, but do your duty and you’ll get your reward, as good Mr. Brooke has, by being respected and loved.”
“What do you know about him?” asked Laurie, grateful for the good advice, but objecting to the lecture, and glad to turn the conversation from himself after his unusual outbreak.
“Only what your grandpa told us about him, how he took good care of his own mother till she died, and wouldn’t go abroad as tutor to some nice person because he wouldn’t leave her. And how he provides now for an old woman who nursed his mother, and never tells anyone, but is just as generous and patient and good as he can be.”
“So he is, dear old fellow!” said Laurie heartily, as Meg paused, looking flushed and earnest with her story. “It’s like Grandpa to find out all about him without letting him know, and to tell all his goodness to others, so that they might like him. Brooke couldn’t understand why your mother was so kind to him, asking him over with me and treating him in her beautiful friendly way. He thought she was just perfect, and talked about it for days and days, and went on about you all in flaming style. If ever I do get my wish, you see what I’ll do for Brooke.”
“Begin to do something now by not plaguing his life out,” said Meg sharply.