Chapter 22: Positively Last Appearance
'Upon my word, I feel as if I lived in a powder-magazine, and don't know which
barrel will explode next, and send me flying,' said Mrs Jo to herself next day, as
she trudged up to Parnassus to suggest to her sister that perhaps the most
charming of the young nurses had better return to her marble gods before she
unconsciously added another wound to those already won by the human hero.
She told no secrets; but a hint was sufficient; for Mrs Amy guarded her daughter
as a pearl of great price, and at once devised a very simple means of escape
from danger. Mr Laurie was going to Washington on Dan's behalf, and was
delighted to take his family with him when the idea was carelessly suggested. So
the conspiracy succeeded finely; and Mrs Jo went home, feeling more like a
traitor than ever. She expected an explosion; but Dan took the news so quietly, it
was plain that he cherished no hope; and Mrs Amy was sure her romantic sister
had been mistaken. If she had seen Dan's face when Bess went to say good-
bye, her maternal eye would have discovered far more than the unconscious girl
did. Mrs Jo trembled lest he should betray himself; but he had learned self-
control in a stern school, and would have got through the hard moment bravely,
only, when he took both hands, saying heartily:
'Good-bye, Princess. If we don't meet again, remember your old friend Dan
sometimes,' she, touched by his late danger and the wistful look he wore,
answered with unusual warmth: 'How can I help it, when you make us all so
proud of you? God bless your mission, and bring you safely home to us again!'
As she looked up at him with a face full of frank affection and sweet regret, all
that he was losing rose so vividly before him that Dan could not resist the
impulse to take the 'dear goldy head' between his hands and kiss it, with a
broken 'Good-bye'; then hurried back to his room, feeling as if it were the prison-
cell again, with no glimpse of heaven's blue to comfort him.
This abrupt caress and departure rather startled Bess; for she felt with a girl's
quick instinct that there was something in that kiss unknown before, and looked
after him with sudden colour in her cheeks and new trouble in her eyes. Mrs Jo
saw it, and fearing a very natural question answered it before it was put.
'Forgive him, Bess. He has had a great trouble, and it makes him tender at
parting with old friends; for you know he may never come back from the wild
world he is going to.'
'You mean the fall and danger of death?' asked Bess, innocently.
'No, dear; a greater trouble than that. But I cannot tell you any more--except that
he has come through it bravely; so you may trust and respect him, as I do.'
'He has lost someone he loved. Poor Dan! We must be very kind to him.'
Bess did not ask the question, but seemed content with her solution of the
mystery--which was so true that Mrs Jo confirmed it by a nod, and let her go
away believing that some tender loss and sorrow wrought the great change all
saw in Dan, and made him so slow to speak concerning the past year.
But Ted was less easily satisfied, and this unusual reticence goaded him to
desperation. His mother had warned him not to trouble Dan with questions till he