“What a trying world it is!” said Jo, rumpling up her hair in a fretful way. “No sooner do we get out of one trouble than down comes another. There doesn’t seem to be anything to hold on to when Mother’s gone, so I’m all at sea.”
“Well, don’t make a porcupine of yourself, it isn’t becoming. Settle your wig, Jo, and tell me if I shall telegraph to your mother, or do anything?” asked Laurie, who never had been reconciled to the loss of his friend’s one beauty.
“That is what troubles me,” said Meg. “I think we ought to tell her if Beth is really ill, but Hannah says we mustn’t, for Mother can’t leave Father, and it will only make them anxious. Beth won’t be sick long, and Hannah knows just what to do, and Mother said we were to mind her, so I suppose we must, but it doesn’t seem quite right to me.”
“Hum, well, I can’t say. Suppose you ask Grandfather after the doctor has been.”
“We will. Jo, go and get Dr. Bangs at once,” commanded Meg. “We can’t decide anything till he has been.”
“Stay where you are, Jo. I’m errand boy to this establishment,” said Laurie, taking up his cap.
“I’m afraid you are busy,” began Meg.
“No, I’ve done my lessons for the day.”
“Do you study in vacation time?” asked Jo.
“I follow the good example my neighbors set me,” was Laurie’s answer, as he swung himself out of the room.
“I have great hopes for my boy,” observed Jo, watching him fly over the fence with an approving smile.
“He does very well, for a boy,” was Meg’s somewhat ungracious answer, for the subject did not interest her.
Dr. Bangs came, said Beth had symptoms of the fever, but he thought she would have it lightly, though he looked sober over the Hummel story. Amy was ordered off at once, and provided with something to ward off danger, she departed in great state, with Jo and Laurie as escort.
Aunt March received them with her usual hospitality.
“What do you want now?” she asked, looking sharply over her spectacles, while the parrot, sitting on the back of her chair, called out…
“Go away. No boys allowed here.”
Laurie retired to the window, and Jo told her story.
“No more than I expected, if you are allowed to go poking about among poor folks. Amy can stay and make herself useful if she isn’t sick, which I’ve no doubt she will be, looks like it now. Don’t cry, child, it worries me to hear people sniff.”
Amy was on the point of crying, but Laurie slyly pulled the parrot’s tail, which caused Polly to utter an astonished croak and call out, “Bless my boots!” in such a funny way, that she laughed instead.
“What do you hear from your mother?” asked the old lady gruffly.
“Father is much better,” replied Jo, trying to keep sober.
“Oh, is he? Well, that won’t last long, I fancy. March never had any stamina,” was the cheerful reply.
“Ha, ha! Never say die, take a pinch of snuff, goodbye, goodbye!” squalled Polly, dancing on her perch, and clawing at the old lady’s cap as Laurie tweaked him in the rear.
“Hold your tongue, you disrespectful old bird! And, Jo, you’d better go at once. It isn’t proper to be gadding about so late with a rattlepated boy like… ”
“Hold your tongue, you disrespectful old bird!” cried Polly, tumbling off the chair with a bounce, and running to peck the ‘rattlepated’ boy, who was shaking with laughter at the last speech.
“I don’t think I can bear it, but I’ll try,” thought Amy, as she was left alone with Aunt March.
“Get along, you fright!” screamed Polly, and at that rude speech Amy could not restrain a sniff.
Beth did have the fever, and was much sicker than anyone but Hannah and the doctor suspected. The girls knew nothing about illness, and Mr. Laurence was not allowed to see her, so Hannah had everything her own way, and busy Dr. Bangs did his best, but left a good deal to the excellent nurse. Meg stayed at home, lest she should infect the Kings, and kept house, feeling very anxious and a little guilty when she wrote letters in which no mention was made