“One thing I leave in your especial care,” she said, the night before she left.
“You mean your papers?” asked Beth.
“No, my boy. Be very good to him, won’t you?”
“Of course I will, but I can’t fill your place, and he’ll miss you sadly.”
“It won’t hurt him, so remember, I leave him in your charge, to plague, pet, and keep in order.”
“I’ll do my best, for your sake,” promised Beth, wondering why Jo looked at her so queerly.
When Laurie said good-by, he whispered significantly, “It won’t do a bit of good, Jo. My eye is on you, so mind what you do, or I’ll come and bring you home.”
New York, November
Dear Marmee and Beth,
I’m going to write you a regular volume, for I’ve got heaps to tell, though I’m not a fine young lady traveling on the continent. When I lost sight of Father’s dear old face, I felt a trifle blue, and might have shed a briny drop or two, if an Irish lady with four small children, all crying more or less, hadn’t diverted my mind, for I amused myself by dropping gingerbread nuts over the seat every time they opened their mouths to roar.
Soon the sun came out, and taking it as a good omen,
cleared up likewise and enjoyed my journey with all my heart.
Mrs. Kirke welcomed me so kindly I felt at home at once, even in that big house full of strangers. She gave me a funny little sky parlor—all she had, but there is a stove in it, and a nice table in a sunny window, so I can sit here and write whenever I like. A fine view and a church tower opposite atone for the many stairs, and I took a fancy to my den on the spot. The nursery, where I am to teach and sew, is a pleasant room next Mrs. Kirke’s private parlor, and the two little girls are pretty children, rather spoiled, I fancy, but they took to me after telling them The Seven Bad Pigs, and I’ve no doubt I shall make a model governess.
I am to have my meals with the children, if I prefer it to the great table, and for the present I do, for I am bashful, though no one will believe it.
“Now, my dear, make yourself at home,” said Mrs. K. in her motherly way, “I’m on the drive from morning to night, as you may suppose with such a family, but a great anxiety will be off my mind if I know the children are safe with you. My rooms are always open to you, and your own shall be as comfortable as I can make it. There are some pleasant people in the house if you feel sociable, and your evenings are always free. Come to me if anything goes wrong, and be as happy as you can. There’s the tea bell, I must run and change my cap.” And off she bustled, leaving me to settle myself in my new nest.
As I went downstairs soon after, I saw something I liked. The flights are very long in this tall house, and as I stood waiting at the head of the third one for a little servant girl to lumber up, I saw a gentleman come along behind her, take the heavy hod of coal out of her hand, carry it all the way up, put it down at a door near by, and walk away, saying, with a kind nod and a foreign accent, “It goes better so. The little back is too young to haf such heaviness.”