Aunt March received them with her usual hospitality.

`What do you want now?' she asked, looking sharply over her spectacles, while the parrot, sitting on the back of her chair, called out:

`Go away. No boys allowed here.'

Laurie retired to the window, and Jo told her story.

`No more than I expected, if you are allowed to go poking about among poor folks. Amy can stay and make herself useful, if she isn't sick, which I've no doubt she will be - looks like it now. Don't cry, child, it worries me to hear people sniff.'

Amy was on the point of crying, but Laurie slyly pulled the parrot's tail, which caused Polly to utter an astonished croak, and call out, `Bless my boots!' in such a funny way, that she laughed instead.

`What do you hear from your mother?' asked the old lady, gruffly.

`Father is much better,' replied Jo, trying to keep sober.

`Oh, is he? Well, that won't last long, I fancy; March never had any stamina,' was the cheerful reply.

`Hah, ha! never say die, take a pinch of snuff, good-bye, good-bye!' squalled Polly, dancing on her perch, and clawing at the old lady's cap as Laurie tweaked him in the rear.

`Hold your tongue, you disrespectful old bird! and, Jo, you'd better go at once; it isn't proper to be gadding about so late with a rattle-pated boy like--'

`Hold your tongue, you disrespectful old bird!' cried Polly, tumbling off the chair with a bounce, and running to peck the `rattle-pated boy', who was shaking with laughter at the last speech.

`I don't think I can bear it, but I'll try,' thought Amy, as she was left alone with Aunt March.

`Get along, you fright!' screamed Polly; and at that rude speech Amy could not restrain a sniff.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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