`You're the oddest fellow I ever saw. How many did you have out?'

Jo looked at her friend as if she did not understand him; then began to laugh, as if mightily amused at something.

`There are two which I want to have come out, but I must wait a week.'

`What are you laughing at? You are up to some mischief, Jo,' said Laurie, looking mystified.

`So are you. What were you doing, sir, up in that billiard saloon?'

`Begging your pardon, ma'am, it wasn't a billiard saloon, but a gymnasium, and I was taking a lesson in fencing.'

`I'm glad of that.'


`You can teach me, and then when we play Hamlet, you can be Laertes, and we'll make a fine thing of the fencing scene.'

Laurie burst out with a hearty boy's laugh, which made several passers-by smile in spite of themselves.

`I'll teach you, whether we play Hamlet or not; it's grand fun, and will straighter, you up capitally. But I don't believe that was your reason for saying "I'm glad", in that decided way; was it, now?'

`No, I was glad that you were not in the saloon, because I hope you never go to such places. Do you?'

`Not often.'

`I wish you wouldn't.'

`It's no harm, Jo. I have billiards at home, but it's no fun unless you have good players, so, as I'm fond of it, I come sometimes and have a game with Ned Moffat or some of the other fellows.'

`Oh dear, I'm so sorry, for you'll get to liking it better and better, and will waste time and money, and grow like those dreadful boys. I did hope you'd stay respectable, and be a satisfaction to your friends,' said Jo, shaking her head.

`Can't a fellow take a little innocent amusement now and then without losing his respectability?' asked Laurie, looking nettled.

`That depends upon how and where he takes it. I don't like Ned and his set, and wish you'd keep out of it. Mother won't let us have him at our house, though he wants to come; and if you grow like him she won't be willing to have us frolic together as we do now.'

`Won't she?' asked Laurie, anxiously.

`No, she can't bear fashionable young men, and she'd shut us all up in bandboxes rather than have us associate with them.'

`Well, she needn't get out her bandboxes yet; I'm not a fashionable party, and don't mean to be; but I do like harmless larks now and then, don't you?'

`Yes, nobody minds them, so lark away, but don't get wild, will you? or there will be an end of all our good times.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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