A/N: So here's the second instalment: in which Jo goes to visit Laurie upon finding him unwell, traipses through the snow and meets his grandfather.
Jo had leapt to her feet with such enthusiasm that had she been of a weaker disposition and less used to galloping wildly about she might have turned her ankle. As it was she wobbled slightly and tried to right herself quickly before either Laurie or his grandfather, who in standing had triggered her comical convulsions, could notice. She was unsure how entirely she succeeded in the endeavour, but if they witnessed it they were both too kind to say anything. To cover her embarrassment Jo proposed it was time she should be getting home. In truth it was the last thing she wanted to do, but she was also loath to outstay her welcome.
Laurie however, wouldn't hear of it. "Oh no! Really? But you must stay a little longer, I wanted to show you the conservatory still. It's a veritable fairyland at this time in the evening. You'll love it, I'm sure," he asserted.
Ever of an enquiring disposition Jo accepted the proposition happily and found to her delight that the conservatory was every bit as wonderful as he had described. Twilight was rapidly creeping upon the sky outside and lamps had been lit at intervals along the long room to guide their way. To Jo each one shimmered like a golden sprite, and she imagined them dancing about amidst the greenery springing forth on every side. Despite the fact that Concord was in the depths of winter and the snow outside clung to the inhabitants' waists as they waded through it, the conservatory was in the full flush of spring. Blossoms dripped from the vines that crept artfully along the walls and everything was lush, green and cheerful. At one point Jo was even convinced she saw a tiny, jewel-bright bird darting between the leaves.
"Oh Laurie," she breathed as she wandered between the avenues of flowers, "it's heavenly."
The Laurence boy, who had been examining her face acutely for any reaction, gave a delighted grin. "It is rather magnificent, isn't it?"
"I could imagine a fairy princess might live in a place such as this, or a woodland nymph -" Jo brought herself up short with a wry chuckle. "Oh dear, pay me no mind. Aunt March is always telling me I should keep my flights of fancy to myself in polite company."
"Well," declared Laurie who found her flights of fancy delightfully refreshing, "I'm not company. I'm your friend if you'll have me, and I'm certainly not polite. Just ask Grandfather." That made her laugh. "Here," struck by a sudden idea the boy reached for some shears lying concealed by the door. Quickly he began snipping off the biggest and best blooms, much to Jo's initial consternation. "Please give these to your mother, and tell her I like the medicine she sent me very much."
"Oh Laurie, you shouldn't have!" She rushed to explain as he looked stricken. "They're beautiful and Marmee will adore them, but shouldn't you have left them on the bush? Won't your grandfather be upset?"
"Oh no, he sha'n't mind a bit of it. He'll be only too pleased for your mother to have them."
"Well, if you're sure." Jo reached up and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Then thank you, you really are a dear." She turned back to return to the parlour too quickly to see the flush that crept into Laurie's cheeks and the pleased, if slightly embarrassed, smile that stole reluctantly onto his lips.
Following her in search of Mr Laurence they soon found him in the drawing room. Laurie was just contemplating the striking figure his grandfather cut silhouetted against the roaring hearth when he almost crashed into Jo who had stopped, stock still, just inside the doorway.
"Jo, whatever is the matter?"
The tall girl smiled as Laurie and his grandfather both turned to regard her curiously. "Sorry Laurie, I was just looking at that terrific piano. Do you play?"
On finding out that he did, she implored him to demonstrate. She would have loved to have the patience to learn, but she knew it would be impossible for her to sit still long enough to be taught. Beth was the musician in the family and she wanted to absorb every note of Laurie's playing so that she could tell her beloved sister about it later. A little abashed, but eager to please Jo, the boy settled himself in front of the grand piano and stretched his fingers in preparation to play.
As the first notes of Beethoven began to dance around the room, he darted a glance at his grandfather. He didn't need to see his face to guess the old man's thoughts; he already knew he disapproved. Still Mr Laurence could at times be unnaturally temperamental about his playing and he didn't want to anger him unnecessarily, especially in front of Jo. His grandfather's mouth was set in a thin line and his eyes were focused intently on the fire, but he didn't look upset, at least not to the extent he had seen him before. He suspected it might be safe to continue.
He was glad he chose to do so, because as the melody took hold Jo settled herself comfortably against the armchair and, her face buried in an armful of flowers, she closed her eyes to listen. He had played this particular tune so many times that he didn't need to look at the music; instead he read every note in the expressions on Jo's face.
He could never tell her as she would simply scoff at him, but Jo March was an uncommonly pretty girl. Not in the conventional way most other girls were, and she wasn't beautiful like her sister Meg, but there was something enchanting about her all the same. The life that radiated from her was infectious, and when she let her guard down the lines of her face became altogether less determined and there was a softness to them that was endearing.
Suddenly she glanced up at him and his playing went awry, one note souring a chord, the chord throwing off the bars around it. Laurie scrambled to salvage the piece and his composure; by the time he had done so Jo was looking back at the flowers, no indication that she had spotted anything amiss and his playing was almost done.
"That was wonderful Laurie!" Jo exclaimed when he had finished. "I wish I was clever enough to play like that!" She was bursting to get home and tell it all to Beth. "Why, I almost believed I was sitting in a concert hall listening to a musician in Boston or New York!"
Laurie made a modest noise and tried to dampen her praise, but Jo, irrepressible as ever, ploughed on. "No, no, you really are that good. Will you ever perform there do you think? I think you could; wouldn't that be magnificent? It was simply…" she searched for an appropriately effusive word, her eyes shining and the bunch of flowers in danger of getting crushed in her ecstasy. "- transporting!"
"That will do, that will do, young lady. Too many sugarplums are not good for him." Mr Laurence broke in, for which Laurie was grateful as he felt his face beginning to burn. He was less enthused by the idea that Jo had to leave, but it was getting late. Besides now that they had fixed on being friends he was sure they would see each other again often.
Out in the hall he bade his new friend farewell and watched her trudging back across the snow towards the cosy lights of Orchard House. Gentle flakes of snow were beginning to swirl around her dark form, glancing against the rosy petals she carefully sheltered against her chest; she looked like something from a story. Right there and then he decided that Jo March was the sort of rare creature that he would know until he was old and grey. He smiled softly to himself, if nothing else she would certainly make his life a lot more interesting.
A/N #2: This one was less an omission from the book which needed to be filled and more that I really just wanted to right about Laurie watching Jo at their first, more formal, meeting. On another note, if you hadn't realised already, the chapter titles correspond to the chapter they are taken from in the book (and hopefully should be in the right order!) Hope you enjoy and please do review again!