`We haven't; don't be angry, and oh, don't tell him I said anything! It was only to show that I cared how you get on, and what is said here is said in confidence, you know,' cried Meg, much alarmed at the thought of what might follow from her careless speech.

`I don't tell tales,' replied Laurie, with his `high and mighty' air, as Jo called a certain expression which he occasionally wore, `only, if Brooke is going to be a barometer, I must mind and have fair weather for him to report.'

`Please don't be offended. I didn't mean to preach or tell tales or be silly; I only thought Jo was encouraging you in a feeling which you'd be sorry for by and by. You are so kind to us, we feel as if you were our brother, and say just what we think. Forgive me. I meant it kindly.' And Meg offered her hand with a gesture both affectionate and timid.

Ashamed of his momentary pique, Laurie squeezed the kind little hand, and said frankly, `I'm the one to be forgiven; I'm cross, and have been out of sorts all day. I like to have you tell me my faults and be sisterly, so don't mind if I am grumpy sometimes; I thank you all the same.'

Bent on showing that he was not offended, he made himself as agreeable as possible - wound cotton for Meg, recited poetry to please Jo, shook down cones for Beth, and helped Amy with her ferns, proving himself a fit person to belong to the `Busy Bee Society'. In the midst of an animated discussion on the domestic habits of turtles (one of those amiable creatures having strolled up from the river), the faint sound of a bell warned them that Hannah had put the tea `to draw', and they would just have time to get home to supper.

`May I come again?' asked Laurie.

`Yes, if you are good, and love your book, as the boys in the primer are told to do,' said Meg, smiling.

`I'll try.'

`Then you may come, and I'll teach you to knit as the Scotchmen do; there's a demand for socks just now,' added Jo, waving hers, like a big, blue worsted banner, as they parted at the gate.

That night, when Beth played to Mr. Laurence in the twilight, Laurie, standing in the shadow of the curtain, listened to the little David, whose simple music always quieted his moody spirit, and watched the old man, who sat with his grey head on his hand, thinking tender thoughts of the dead child he had loved so much. Remembering the conversation of the afternoon, the boy said to himself, with the resolve to make the sacrifice cheerfully, `I'll let my castle go, and stay with the dear old gentleman while he needs me, for I am all he has.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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