“You can teach me, and then when we play Hamlet, you can be Laertes, and we’ll make a fine thing of the fencing scene.”
Laurie burst out with a hearty boy’s laugh, which made several passers-by smile in spite of themselves.
“I’ll teach you whether we play Hamlet or not. It’s grand fun and will straighten you up capitally. But I don’t believe that was your only reason for saying ‘I’m glad’ in that decided way, was it now?”
“No, I was glad that you were not in the saloon, because I hope you never go to such places. Do you?”
“I wish you wouldn’t.”
“It’s no harm, Jo. I have billiards at home, but it’s no fun unless you have good players, so, as I’m fond of it, I come sometimes and have a game with Ned Moffat or some of the other fellows.”
“Oh, dear, I’m so sorry, for you’ll get to liking it better and better, and will waste time and money, and grow like those dreadful boys. I did hope you’d stay respectable and be a satisfaction to your friends,” said Jo, shaking her head.
“Can’t a fellow take a little innocent amusement now and then without losing his respectability?” asked Laurie, looking nettled.
“That depends upon how and where he takes it. I don’t like Ned and his set, and wish you’d keep out of it. Mother won’t let us have him at our house, though he wants to come. And if you grow like him she won’t be willing to have us frolic together as we do now.”
“Won’t she?” asked Laurie anxiously.
“No, she can’t bear fashionable young men, and she’d shut us all up in bandboxes rather than have us associate with them.”
“Well, she needn’t get out her bandboxes yet. I’m not a fashionable party and don’t mean to be, but I do like harmless larks now and then, don’t you?”
“Yes, nobody minds them, so lark away, but don’t get wild, will you? Or there will be an end of all our good times.”
“I’ll be a double distilled saint.”
“I can’t bear saints. Just be a simple, honest, respectable boy, and we’ll never desert you. I don’t know what I should do if you acted like Mr. King’s son. He had plenty of money, but didn’t know how to spend it, and got tipsy and gambled, and ran away, and forged his father’s name, I believe, and was altogether horrid.”
“You think I’m likely to do the same? Much obliged.”
“No, I don’t—oh, dear, no!—but I hear people talking about money being such a temptation, and I sometimes wish you were poor. I shouldn’t worry then.”
“Do you worry about me, Jo?”
“A little, when you look moody and discontented, as you sometimes do, for you’ve got such a strong will, if you once get started wrong, I’m afraid it would be hard to stop you.”
Laurie walked in silence a few minutes, and Jo watched him, wishing she had held her tongue, for his eyes looked angry, though his lips smiled as if at her warnings.
“Are you going to deliver lectures all the way home?” he asked presently.
“Of course not. Why?”
“Because if you are, I’ll take a bus. If you’re not, I’d like to walk with you and tell you something very interesting.”
“I won’t preach any more, and I’d like to hear the news immensely.”
“Very well, then, come on. It’s a secret, and if I tell you, you must tell me yours.”
“I haven’t got any,” began Jo, but stopped suddenly, remembering that she had.