‘What if it is?’ said Laurie, with a smile. ‘You’re not afraid of anything, remember?’
‘Perhaps I am a little bit afraid of him,’ said Jo.
The servant came in at that moment. ‘The doctor is here to see you, sir,’ she said to Laurie.
‘Can I leave you for a minute or two, Jo?’ he said.
‘Yes, I’m very happy here,’ said Jo.
He went away and Jo was staring at a large picture of the old gentleman when the door opened again. Without turning, she said, ‘I won’t be afraid of him, because he’s got kind eyes, although his mouth looks hard and cold. He’s not as handsome as my grandfather, but I like him.’
‘Thank you,’ said a deep voice behind her.
She turned quickly — and saw old Mr Laurence!
Jo’s face turned a bright red and she wanted to run away. But the old man’s eyes looked kinder than those in the picture and seemed to have a smile in them.
‘So you’re not afraid of me, eh?’ he said.
‘Not much, sir.’
‘But I’m not as handsome as your grandfather?
‘Not quite, sir.’
‘But you like me.’ He laughed and shook hands with her. ‘Now, what have you been doing with my grandson?’
‘Trying to cheer him up, sir,’ said Jo. ‘He seems a bit lonely.’
‘Then come and have some tea with us.’
Laurie was very surprised to see Jo with his grandfather, but was soon talking and laughing happily with Jo. The old man watched the two young people and noticed the change in his grandson. ‘She’s right,’ he thought. ‘The boy does need cheering up.’
After tea, they went into a room where there was a large and beautiful piano.
‘Do you play?’ Jo asked Laurie.
‘Sometimes,’ he answered.
‘Play now. I want to hear it so I can tell Beth.’
So Laurie played and Jo listened. Afterwards, Mr Laurence said, ‘He plays quite well, but I want him to do well in more important things. Now, I hope you’ll come again.’ He shook hands with her. ‘Goodnight, Jo.’
Laurie walked to the door with her. ‘He doesn’t like to hear me play,’ he said.
‘Why not?’ said Jo.
‘I’ll tell you one day,’ he said.
When Jo told the family of her afternoon’s adventures, they all wanted to go and visit the big house.
‘Mother, why doesn’t Mr Laurence like to hear Laurie play the piano?’ asked Jo.
‘Laurie’s father married an Italian lady, a musician,’ said Mrs March. ‘The old man didn’t like her, and never saw his son after they were married. Laurie was born in Italy, but his parents died when he was a child, and his grandfather brought him home. Laurie loves music and I expect his grandfather is afraid he’ll want to be a musician like his mother.’
‘Laurie should be a musician if he wants to be,’ said Jo. ‘Sending him to college will just make him unhappy.’