Mrs. March held out her hand to Jo, who took it, smiling, with tears in her eyes, and went on in the old enthusiastic way, which they had not seen for a long while.
“I told my plan to Fritz once, and he said it was just what he would like, and agreed to try it when we got rich. Bless his dear heart, he’s been doing it all his life—helping poor boys, I mean, not getting rich, that he’ll never be. Money doesn’t stay in his pocket long enough to lay up any. But now, thanks to my good old aunt, who loved me better than I ever deserved, I’m rich, at least I feel so, and we can live at Plumfield perfectly well, if we have a flourishing school. It’s just the place for boys, the house is big, and the furniture strong and plain. There’s plenty of room for dozens inside, and splendid grounds outside. They could help in the garden and orchard. Such work is healthy, isn’t it, sir? Then Fritz could train and teach in his own way, and Father will help him. I can feed and nurse and pet and scold them, and Mother will be my stand-by. I’ve always longed for lots of boys, and never had enough, now I can fill the house full and revel in the little dears to my heart’s content. Think what luxury— Plumfield my own, and a wilderness of boys to enjoy it with me.”
As Jo waved her hands and gave a sigh of rapture, the family went off into a gale of merriment, and Mr. Laurence laughed till they thought he’d have an apoplectic fit.
“I don’t see anything funny,” she said gravely, when she could be heard. “Nothing could be more natural and proper than for my Professor to open a school, and for me to prefer to reside in my own estate.”
“She is putting on airs already,” said Laurie, who regarded the idea in the light of a capital joke. “But may I inquire how you intend to support the establishment? If all the pupils are little ragamuffins, I’m afraid your crop won’t be profitable in a worldly sense, Mrs. Bhaer.”
“Now don’t be a wet-blanket, Teddy. Of course I shall have rich pupils, also—perhaps begin with such altogether. Then, when I’ve got a start, I can take in a ragamuffin or two, just for a relish. Rich people’s children often need care and comfort, as well as poor. I’ve seen unfortunate little creatures left to servants, or backward ones pushed forward, when it’s real cruelty. Some are naughty through mismanagment or neglect, and some lose their mothers. Besides, the best have to get through the hobbledehoy age, and that’s the very time they need most patience and kindness. People laugh at them, and hustle them about, try to keep them out of sight, and expect them to turn all at once from pretty children into fine young men. They don’t complain much—plucky little souls—but they feel it. I’ve been through something of it, and I know all about it. I’ve a special interest in such young bears, and like to show them that I see the warm, honest, well-meaning boys’ hearts, in spite of the clumsy arms and legs and the topsy-turvy heads. I’ve had experience, too, for haven’t I brought up one boy to be a pride and honor to his family?”