21. CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
Jo's face was a study next day, for the secret rather weighed
upon her, and she found it hard not to look mysterious and
important. Meg observed it, but did not trouble herself to make
inquiries, for she had learned that the best way to manage Jo was
by the law of contraries, so she felt sure of being told everything
if she did not ask. She was rather surprised, therefore,
when the silence remained unbroken, and Jo assumed a patronizing
air, which decidedly aggravated Meg, who in turn assumed an air
of dignified reserve and devoted herself to her mother. This left
Jo to her own devices, for Mrs. March had taken her place as nurse,
and bade her rest, exercise, and amuse herself after her long
confinement. Amy being gone, Laurie was her only refuge, and much
as she enjoyed his society, she rather dreaded him just then, for
he was an incorrigible tease, and she feared he would coax the
secret from her.
She was quite right, for the mischief-loving lad no sooner
suspected a mystery than he set himself to find it out, and led
Jo a trying life of it. He wheedled, bribed, ridiculed,
threatened, and scolded; affected indifference, that he might surprise
the truth from her; declared her knew, then that he didn't care;
and at last, by dint of perseverance, he satisfied himself that
it concerned Meg and Mr. Brooke. Feeling indignant that he was
not taken into his tutor's confidence, he set his wits to work
to devise some proper retaliation for the slight.
Meg meanwhile had apparently forgotten the matter and was
absorbed in preparations for her father's return, but all of a
sudden a change seemed to come over her, and, for a day or two,
she was quite unlike herself. She started when spoken to,
blushed when looked at, was very quiet, and sat over her sewing,
with a timid, troubled look on her face. To her mother's inquiries
she answered that she was quite well, and Jo's she silenced by
begging to be let alone.
"She feels it in the air--love, I mean--and she's going very
fast. She's got most of the symptoms--is twittery and cross,
doesn't eat, lies awake, and mopes in corners. I caught her
singing that song he gave her, and once she said `John', as you
do, and then turned as red as a poppy. whatever shall we do?"
said Jo, looking ready for any measures, however violent.