a good doctor, Teddy, and such a comfortable friend; how can I ever pay you?' she added; the kind words had refreshed her troubled mind.
`I'll send in my bill, by and by; and tonight I'll give you something that will warm the cockles of your heart better than quarts of wine,' said Laurie, beaming at her with a face of suppressed satisfaction at something.
`What is it?' cried Jo, forgetting her woes for a minute, in her wonder.
`I telegraphed to your mother yesterday, and Brooke answered she'd come at once, and she'll be here tonight, and everything will be all right. Aren't you glad I did it?'
Laurie spoke very fast, and turned red and excited all in a minute, for he had kept his plot a secret, for fear of disappointing the girls or harming Beth.
Jo grew quite white, flew out of her chair, and the moment he stopped speaking she electrified him by throwing her arms round his neck, and crying out, with a joyful cry, `Oh, Laurie! Oh, Mother! I am so glad!' She did not weep again, but laughed hysterically, and trembled and clung to her friend as if she was a little bewildered by the sudden news.
Laurie, though decidedly amazed, behaved with great presence of mind; he patted her back soothingly and, finding that she was recovering, followed it up by a bashful kiss or two, which brought Jo round at once. Holding on to the banisters, she put him gently away, saying breathlessly, `Oh, don't! I didn't mean to; it was dreadful of me; but you were such a dear to go and do it in spite of Hannah that I couldn't help flying at you. Tell me all about it, and don't give me wine again; it makes me act so stupidly.'
`I don't mind,' laughed Laurie, as he settled his tie.
`Why, you see I got fidgety, and so did grandpa. We thought Hannah was overdoing the authority business, and your mother ought to know. She'd never forgive us if Beth - well, if anything happened, you know. So I got grandpa. to say it was high time we did something, and off I pelted to the office yesterday, for the doctor looked sober, and Hannah 'most took my head off when I proposed a telegram. I never can bear to be "lorded" over, so that settled my mind, and I did it. Your mother will come, I know, and the late train is in at 2 a.m. I shall go for her, and you've only got to bottle up your rapture, and keep Beth quiet, till that blessed lady gets here.'
`Laurie, you're an angel! How shall I ever thank you?'
`Fly at me again; I rather like it,' said Laurie, looking mischievous - a thing he had not done for a fortnight.
`No, thank you. I'll do it by proxy, when your grandpa comes. Don't tease, but go home and rest, for you'll be up half the night. Bless you, Teddy, bless you!'
Jo had backed into a corner; and, as she finished her speech, she vanished precipitately into the kitchen, where she sat down upon a dresser, and told the assembled cats, that she was `happy, oh, so happy!' while Laurie departed, feeling that he had made rather a neat thing of it.
`That's the interferingest chap I ever see; but I forgive him, and do hope Mrs. March is coming on right away,' said Hannah, with an air of relief, when Jo told the good news.
Meg had a quiet rapture, and then brooded over the letter, while Jo set the sickroom in order, and Hannah `knocked up a couple of pies in case of company unexpected'. A breath of fresh air seemed to blow through the house, and something better than sunshine brightened the quiet rooms. Everything appeared to feel the hopeful change; Beth's bird began to chirp again, and a half-blown rose was discovered on Amy's bush in the window, and fires seemed to burn with unusual cheeriness; and every time the girls met, their pale faces broke into smiles as they hugged one another, whispering encouragingly, `Mother's coming, dear! Mother's coming!' Everyone rejoiced but Beth; she lay in that heavy stupor, alike unconscious
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