Your devoted John.

`Oh, the little villain! that's the way he meant to pay me for keeping my word to Mother. I'll give him a hearty scolding, and bring him over to beg pardon,' cried Jo, burning to execute immediate justice. But her mother held her back, saying, with a look she seldom wore: `Stop, Jo, you must clear yourself first. You have played so many pranks, that I am afraid you have had a hand in this.'

`On my word, Mother, I haven't! I never saw that note before, and I don't know anything about it, as true as I live!' said Jo, so earnestly that they believed her. `If I had taken a part in it I'd have done it better than this, and have written a sensible note. I should think you'd have known Mr. Brooke wouldn't write such stuff as that,' she added, scornfully tossing down the paper.

`It's like his writing,' faltered Meg, comparing it with the note in her hand.

`Oh, Meg, you didn't answer it?' cried Mrs. March, quickly.

`Yes, I did!' and Meg hid her face again, overcome with shame.

`Here's a scrape! Do let me bring that wicked boy over to explain, and be lectured. I can't rest till I get hold of him'; and Jo made for the door again.

`Hush! let me manage this, for it is worse than I thought. Margaret, tell me the whole story,' commanded Mrs. March, sitting down by Meg, yet keeping hold of Jo, lest she should fly off.

`I received the first letter from Laurie, who didn't look as if he knew anything about it,' began Meg, without looking up. `I was worried at first, and meant to tell you; then I remembered how you liked Mr. Brooke, so I thought you wouldn't mind if I kept my little secret for a few days. I'm so silly that I liked to think no one knew; and, while I was deciding what to say I felt like the girls in books, who have such things to do.

`Forgive me, Mother, I'm paid for my silliness now; I never can look him in the face again.'

`What did you say to him?' asked Mrs. March.

`I only said I was too young to do anything about it yet; that I didn't wish to have secrets from you, and he must speak to Father. I was very grateful for his kindness, and would be his friend, but nothing more, for a long while.'

Mrs. March smiled, as if pleased, and Jo clapped her hands, exclaiming, with a laugh:

`You are almost equal to Caroline Percy, who was a pattern of prudence! Tell on, Meg. What did he say to that?'

`He writes in a different way entirely, telling me that he never sent any love letter at all, and is very sorry that my roguish sister, Jo, should take such liberties with our names. It's very kind and respectful, but think how dreadful for me!'

Meg leaned against her mother, looking the image of despair, and Jo tramped about the room, calling Laurie names. All of a sudden, she stopped, caught up the two notes, and, after looking at them closely, said decidedly, `I don't believe Brooke ever saw either of these letters. Teddy wrote both, and keeps yours to crow over me with, because I wouldn't tell him my secret.'

`Don't have any secrets Jo; tell it to Mother, and keep out of trouble, as I should have done,' said Meg, warningly.

`Bless you, child! Mother told me.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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