“Aunt Carrol is going abroad next month, and wants . . .”
“Me to go with her!” burst in Jo, flying out of her chair in an uncontrollable rapture.
“No, dear, not you. It’s Amy.”
“Oh, Mother! She’s too young, it’s my turn first. I’ve wanted it so long. It would do me so much good, and be so altogether splendid. I must go!”
“I’m afraid it’s impossible, Jo. Aunt says Amy, decidedly, and it is not for us to dictate when she offers such a favor.”
“It’s always so. Amy has all the fun and I have all the work. It isn’t fair, oh, it isn’t fair!” cried Jo passionately.
“I’m afraid it’s partly your own fault, dear. When Aunt spoke to me the other day, she regretted your blunt manners and too independent spirit, and here she writes, as if quoting something you had said—’I planned at first to ask Jo, but as ‘favors burden her’, and she ‘hates French’, I think I won’t venture to invite her. Amy is more docile, will make a good companion for Flo, and receive gratefully any help the trip may give her.”
“Oh, my tongue, my abominable tongue! Why can’t I learn to keep it quiet?” groaned Jo, remembering words which had been her undoing. When she had heard the explanation of the quoted phrases, Mrs. March said sorrowfully . . .
“I wish you could have gone, but there is no hope of it this time, so try to bear it cheerfully, and don’t sadden Amy’s pleasure by reproaches or regrets.”
“I’ll try,” said Jo, winking hard as she knelt down to pick up the basket she had joyfully upset. “I’ll take a leaf out of her book, and try not only to seem glad, but to be so, and not grudge her one minute of happiness. But it won’t be easy, for it is a dreadful disappointment,” and poor Jo bedewed the little fat pincushion she held with several very bitter tears.
“Jo, dear, I’m very selfish, but I couldn’t spare you, and I’m glad you are not going quite yet,” whispered Beth, embracing her, basket and all, with such a clinging touch and loving face that Jo felt comforted in spite of the sharp regret that made her want to box her own ears, and humbly beg Aunt Carrol to burden her with this favor, and see how gratefully she would bear it.
By the time Amy came in, Jo was able to take her part in the family jubilation, not quite as heartily as usual, perhaps, but without repinings at Amy’s good fortune. The young lady herself received the news as tidings of great joy, went about in a solemn sort of rapture, and began to sort her colors and pack her pencils that evening, leaving such trifles as clothes, money, and passports to those less absorbed in visions of art than herself.
“It isn’t a mere pleasure trip to me, girls,” she said impressively, as she scraped her best palette. “It will decide my career, for if I have any genius, I shall find it out in Rome, and will do something to prove it.”
“Suppose you haven’t?” said Jo, sewing away, with red eyes, at the new collars which were to be handed over to Amy.