`See the cunning brackets to hold candles, and the nice green silk, puckered up, with a gold rose in the middle, and the pretty rack and stool, all complete,' added Meg, opening the instrument and displaying its beauties.

`"Your humble servant, James Laurence"; only think of his writing that to you. I'll tell the girls. They'll think it's splendid,' said Amy, much impressed by the note.

`Try it, honey. Let's hear the sound of the baby pianny,' said Hannah, who always took a share in the family joys and sorrows.

So Beth tried it; and everyone pronounced it the most remarkable piano ever heard. It had evidently been newly tuned and put in apple-pie order; but perfect as it was, I think the real charm of it lay in the happiest of all happy faces which leaned over it, as Beth lovingly touched the beautiful black and white keys and pressed the bright pedals.

`You'll have to go and thank him,' said Jo, by way of a joke; for the idea of the child's really going never entered her head.

`Yes, I mean too. I guess I'll go now, before I get frightened thinking about it.' And, to the utter amazement of the assembled family, Beth walked deliberately down the garden, through the hedge, and in at the Laurences' door.

`Well, I wish I may die if it ain't the queerest thing I ever see. The pianny has turned her head! She'd never have gone in her right mind,' cried Hannah, staring after her, while the girls were rendered quite speechless by the miracle.

They would have been still more amazed if they had seen what Beth did afterwards. If you will believe me, she went and knocked at the study door before she gave herself time to think; and when a gruff voice called out, `Come in!' she did go in, right up to Mr. Laurence, who looked quite taken aback, and held out her hand, saying, with only a small quaver in her voice, `I came to thank you, sir, for--' But she didn't finish; for he looked so friendly, that she forgot her speech, and, only remembering that he had lost the little girl he loved, she put both arms round his neck, and kissed him.

If the roof of the house had suddenly flown off, the old gentleman wouldn't have been more astonished; but he liked it - oh, dear, yes, he liked it amazingly! - and was so touched and pleased by that confiding little kiss, that all his crustiness vanished; and he just set her on his knee, and laid his wrinkled cheek against her rosy one, feeling as if he had got his own little granddaughter back again. Beth ceased to fear him from that moment and sat there talking to him as cosily as if she had known him all her life; for love casts out fear, and gratitude can conquer pride. When she went home, he walked with her to her own gate, shook hands cordially, and touched his hat as he marched back again, looking very stately and erect, like a handsome, soldierly old gentleman, as he was. When the girls saw that performance, Jo began to dance a jig, by way of expressing her satisfaction; Amy nearly fell out of the window in her surprise; and Meg exclaimed, with uplifted hands, `Well, I do believe the world is coming to an end!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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