Chapter 5. Being Neighborly
“What in the world are you going to do now, Jo?” asked Meg one snowy afternoon, as her sister came tramping through the hall, in rubber boots, old sack, and hood, with a broom in one hand and a shovel in the other.
“Going out for exercise,” answered Jo with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
“I should think two long walks this morning would have been enough! It’s cold and dull out, and I advise you to stay warm and dry by the fire, as I do,” said Meg with a shiver.
“Never take advice! Can’t keep still all day, and not being a pussycat, I don’t like to doze by the fire. I like adventures, and I’m going to find some.”
Meg went back to toast her feet and read _Ivanhoe_, and Jo began to dig paths with great energy. The snow was light, and with her broom she soon swept a path all round the garden, for Beth to walk in when the sun came out and the invalid dolls needed air. Now, the garden separated the Marches’ house from that of Mr. Laurence. Both stood in a suburb of the city, which was still countrylike, with groves and lawns, large gardens, and quiet streets. A low hedge parted the two estates. On one side was an old, brown house, looking rather bare and shabby, robbed of the vines that in summer covered its walls and the flowers, which then surrounded it. On the other side was a stately stone mansion, plainly betokening every sort of comfort and luxury, from the big coach house and well-kept grounds to the conservatory and the glimpses of lovely things one caught between the rich curtains.
mischievous : いたずらな
grove : 林
bare : 飾り気の無い
betoken : 示す
conservatory : 温室
Yet it seemed a lonely, lifeless sort of house, for no children frolicked on the lawn, no motherly face ever smiled at the windows, and few people went in and out, except the old gentleman and his grandson.
To Jo’s lively fancy, this fine house seemed a kind of enchanted palace, full of splendors and delights which no one enjoyed. She had long wanted to behold these hidden glories, and to know the Laurence boy, who looked as if he would like to be known, if he only knew how to begin. Since the party, she had been more eager than ever, and had planned many ways of making friends with him, but he had not been seen lately, and Jo began to think he had gone away, when she one day spied a brown face at an upper window, looking wistfully down into their garden, where Beth and Amy were snow-balling one another.
“That boy is suffering for society and fun,” she said to herself. “His grandpa does not know what’s good for him, and keeps him shut up all alone. He needs a party of jolly boys to play with, or somebody young and lively. I’ve a great mind to go over and tell the old gentleman so!”
The idea amused Jo, who liked to do daring things and was always scandalizing Meg by her queer performances. The plan of ‘going over’ was not forgotten. And when the snowy afternoon came, Jo resolved to try what could be done. She saw Mr. Lawrence drive off, and then sallied out to dig her way down to the hedge, where she paused and took a survey. All quiet, curtains down at the lower windows, servants out of sight, and nothing human visible but a curly black head leaning on a thin hand at the upper window.
frolicky : 陽気な
behold : 見守る
sally : 反撃する
“There he is,” thought Jo, “Poor boy! All alone and sick this dismal day. It’s a shame! I’ll toss up a snowball and make him look out, and then say a kind word to him.”
Up went a handful of soft snow, and the head turned at once, showing a face which lost its listless look in a minute, as the big eyes brightened and the mouth began to smile. Jo nodded and laughed, and flourished her broom as she called out . . .
“How do you do? Are you sick?”
Laurie opened the window, and croaked out as hoarsely as a raven . . .
“Better, thank you. I’ve had a bad cold, and been shut up a week.”
“I’m sorry. What do you amuse yourself with?”
“Nothing. It’s dull as tombs up here.”
“Don’t you read?”
“Not much. They won’t let me.”
“Can’t somebody read to you?”
listless : 無関心な
hoarsely : かすれた声で
raven : カラス
“Grandpa does sometimes, but my books don’t interest him, and I hate to ask Brooke all the time.”
“Have someone come and see you then.”
“There isn’t anyone I’d like to see. Boys make such a row, and my head is weak.”
“Isn’t there some nice girl who’d read and amuse you? Girls are quiet and like to play nurse.”
“Don’t know any.”
“You know us,” began Jo, then laughed and stopped.
“So I do! Will you come, please?” cried Laurie.
“I’m not quiet and nice, but I’ll come, if Mother will let me. I’ll go ask her. Shut the window, like a good boy, and wait till I come.”
With that, Jo shouldered her broom and marched into the house, wondering what they would all say to her. Laurie was in a flutter of excitement at the idea of having company, and flew about to get ready, for as Mrs. March said, he was ‘a little gentleman’, and did honor to the coming guest by brushing his curly pate, putting on a fresh color, and trying to tidy up the room, which in spite of half a dozen servants, was anything but neat. Presently there came a loud ring, than a decided voice, asking for ‘Mr. Laurie’, and a surprised- looking servant came running up to announce a young lady.
“All right, show her up, it’s Miss Jo,” said Laurie, going to the door of his little parlor to meet Jo, who appeared, looking rosy and quite at her ease, with a covered dish in one hand and Beth’s three kittens in the other.
“Here I am, bag and baggage,” she said briskly. “Mother sent her love, and was glad if I could do anything for you. Meg wanted me to bring some of her blanc mange, she makes it very nicely, and Beth thought her cats would be comforting. I knew you’d laugh at them, but I couldn’t refuse, she was so anxious to do something.”
It so happened that Beth’s funny loan was just the thing, for in laughing over the kits, Laurie forgot his bashfulness, and grew sociable at once.
“That looks too pretty to eat,” he said, smiling with pleasure, as Jo uncovered the dish, and showed the blanc mange, surrounded by a garland of green leaves, and the scarlet flowers of Amy’s pet geranium.
“It isn’t anything, only they all felt kindly and wanted to show it. Tell the girl to put it away for your tea. It’s so simple you can eat it, and being soft, it will slip down without hurting your sore throat. What a cozy room this is!”
“It might be if it was kept nice, but the maids are lazy, and I don’t know how to make them mind. It worries me though.”
blanc mange : フランスの冷菓
scarlet : 緋色の
“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 toward 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 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.”
whisk : 素早く動かす
affectionately : 愛情を込めて
“The pretty one is Meg, and the curly-haired one is Amy, I believe?”
“How did you find that out?”
Laurie colored 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 around 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 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?”
twitching : 引っぱる
heap : 与える