Louisa May Alcott: Rose in Bloom

Chapter 19. BEHIND THE FOUNTAIN (continued)

"Very sweet and shy and charming. I try not to watch but upon my word I cannot help it sometimes, she is so 'cunning,' as you girls say. When I carry her a letter from Mac she tries so hard not to show how glad she is that I want to laugh and tell her I know all about it. But I look as sober as a judge and as stupid as an owl by daylight, and she enjoys her letters in peace and thinks I'm so absorbed in my own passion that I'm blind to hers."

"But why did Mac come away? He says lectures brought him, and he goes, but I am sure something else is in his mind, he looks so happy at times. I don't see him very often, but when I do I'm conscious that he isn't the Mac I left a year ago," said Phebe, leading Archie away, for inexorable propriety forbade a longer stay, even if prudence and duty had not given her a reminding nudge, as it was very cold, and afternoon church came in an hour.

"Well, you see Mac was always peculiar, and he cannot even grow up like other fellows. I don't understand him yet, and am sure he's got some plan in his head that no one suspects, unless it is Uncle Alec. Love makes us all cut queer capers, and I've an idea that the Don will distinguish himself in some uncommon way. So be prepared to applaud whatever it is. We owe him that, you know."

"Indeed we do! If Rose ever speaks of him to you, tell her I shall see that he comes to no harm, and she must do the same for my Archie."

That unusual demonstration of tenderness from reserved Phebe very naturally turned the conversation into a more personal channel, and Archie devoted himself to building castles in the air so successfully that they passed the material mansion without either being aware of it.

"Will you come in?" asked Phebe when the mistake was rectified and she stood on her own steps looking down at her escort, who had discreetly released her before a pull at the bell caused five heads to pop up at five different windows.

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