43. CHAPTER FORTY-THREE
Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids,
no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry
worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to
the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of
rank, age, or color. Just recollect the good aunts who have not
only lectured and fussed, but nursed and petted, too often without
thanks, the scrapes they have helped you out of, the tips
they have given you from their small store, the stitches the
patient old fingers have set for you, the steps the willing old
feet have taken, and gratefully pay the dear old ladies the little
attentions that women love to receive as long as they live. The
bright-eyed girls are quick to see such traits, and will like you
all the better for them, and if death, almost the only power that
can part mother and son, should rob you of yours, you will be sure
to find a tender welcome and maternal cherishing from some Aunt
Priscilla, who has kept the warmest corner of her lonely old heart
for `the best nevvy in the world'.
Jo must have fallen asleep (as I dare say my reader has during
this little homily), for suddenly Laurie's ghost seemed to
stand before her, a substantial, lifelike ghost, leaning over her
with the very look he used to wear when he felt a good deal and
didn't like to show it. But, like Jenny in the ballad...
She could not think it he,
and lay staring up at him in startled silence, till he stooped
and kissed her. Then she knew him, and flew up, crying joyfully . ..
"Oh my Teddy! Oh my Teddy!"
"Dear Jo, you are glad to see me, then?"
"Glad! My blessed boy, words can't express my gladness.
"Your mother has got her down at Meg's. We stopped there by
the way, and there was no getting my wife out of their clutches."
"Your what?" cried Jo, for Laurie uttered those two words
with an unconscious pride and satisfaction which betrayed him.