`Is it fairies?' asked Amy.
`It's Santa Claus,' said Beth.
`Mother did it'; and Meg smiled her sweetest, in spite her grey beard and white eyebrows.
`Aunt March had a good fit, and sent the supper,' cried Jo, with a sudden inspiration.
`All wrong. Old Mr. Laurence sent it,' replied Mr March.
`The Laurence boy's grandfather! What in the world put such a thing into his head? We don't know him!' exclaimed Meg.
`Hannah told one of his servants about your breakfast party. He is an odd old gentleman, but that pleased him. He knew my father, years ago; and he sent me a polite note this afternoon, saying he hoped I would allow him to express his friendly feeling towards my children by sending them few trifles in honour of the day. I could not refuse; and you have a little feast at night to make up for the bread-and-milk breakfast.'
`That boy put it into his head, I know he did! He's capital fellow, and I wish we could get acquainted. He loon as if he'd like to know us; but he's bashful, and Meg is prim she won't let me speak to him when we pass,' said Jo as the plates went round, and the ice began to melt out sight, with `Ohs!' and `Ahs!' of satisfaction.
`You mean the people who live in the big house net door, don't you?' asked one of the girls. `My mother knows old Mr. Laurence; but says he's very proud, and doesn't like to mix with his neighbours. He keeps his grandson shut up, when he isn't riding or walking with his tutor, and make him study very hard. We invited him to our party, but he didn't come. Mother says he's very nice, though he never speaks to us girls.'
`Our cat ran away once, and he brought her back, and we talked over the fence, and were getting on capitally - all about cricket, and so on - when he saw Meg coming, and walked off. I mean to know him some day; for he needs fun, I'm sure he does,' said Jo decidedly.
`I like his manners, and he looks like a little gentleman; so I've no objection to your knowing him, if a Proper opportunity comes. He brought the flowers himself; and I should have asked him in, if I had been sure what was going on upstairs. He looked so wistful as he went away, hearing the frolic, and evidently having none of his own.'
`It's a mercy you didn't, Mother!' laughed Jo, looking at her boots. `But we'll have another play, some time, that he can see. Perhaps he'll help act; wouldn't that be jolly?'
`I never had such a fined bouquet before! How pretty it is!' And Meg examined her flowers with great interest.
`They are lovely. But Beth's roses are sweeter to me,' said Mrs. March, smelling the half-dead posy in her belt.
Beth nestled up to her, and whispered softly, `I wish I could send my bunch to Father. I'm afraid he isn't having such a merry Christmas as we are.'
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