`I'll right it up in two minutes; for it only needs to have the hearth brushed, so - and the things made straight on the mantelpiece, so - and the books put here and the bottles there, and your sofa turned from the light, and the pillows plumped up a bit. Now, then, you're fixed.'
And so he was; for, as she laughed and talked, Jo had whisked things into place, and given quite a different air to the room. Laurie watched her in respectful silence; and when she beckoned him to his sofa, he sat down with a sigh of satisfaction, saying gratefully:
`How kind you are! Yes, that's what it wanted. Now please take the big chair, and let me do something to amuse my company.
`No. I came to amuse you. Shall I read aloud?' and Jo looked affectionately towards some inviting books near by.
`Thank you; I've read all those, and if you don't mind I'd rather talk,' answered Laurie.
`Not a bit; I'll talk all day if you'll only set me going. Beth says I never know when to stop.'
`Is Beth the rosy one, who stays at home a good deal, and sometimes goes out with a little basket?' asked Laurie, with interest.
`Yes, that's Beth; she's my girl, and a regular good one she is, too.'
`The pretty one is Meg, and the curly-haired one is Amy, I believe?'
`How did you find that out?'
Laurie coloured up, but answered frankly, `Why, you see, I often hear you calling to one another, and when I'm alone up here, I can't help looking over at your house, you always seem to be having such good times. I beg your pardon for being so rude, but sometimes you forget to put down the curtain at the window where the flowers are; and when the lamps are lighted, it's like looking at a picture to see the fire, and you all round the table with your mother; her face is right opposite, and it looks so sweet behind the flowers, I can't help watching it. I haven't got any mother, you know,' and Laurie poked the fire to hide a little twitching of the lips that he could not control.
The solitary, hungry look in his eyes went straight to Jo's warm heart. She had been so simply taught that there was no nonsense in her head, and at fifteen she was as innocent and frank as any child. Laurie was sick and lonely; and, feeling how rich she was in home-love and happiness, she gladly tried to share it with him. Her face was very friendly and her sharp voice unusually gentle as she said:
`We'll never draw that curtain any more, and I give you leave to look as much as you like. I just wish, though, instead of peeping, you'd come over and see us. Mother is so splendid, she'd do you heaps of good, and Beth would sing to you if I begged her to, and Amy would dance; Meg and I would make you laugh over our funny stage properties, and we'd have jolly times. Wouldn't your grandpa let you?'
`I think he would, if your mother asked him. He's very kind, though he does not look so; and he lets me do what I like, pretty much, only he's afraid I might be a bother to strangers,' began Laurie, brightening more and more.
`We are not strangers, we are neighbours, and you needn't think you'd be a bother. We want to know you, and I've been trying to do it this ever so long. We haven't been here a great while, you know, but we have got acquainted with all our neighbours but you.'
`You see grandpa lives among his books, and doesn't mind much what happens outside. Mr. Brooke, my tutor, doesn't stay here, you know, and I have no one to go about with me, so I just stop at home and get on as I can.'
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