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203
Castles in the Air.

ing through the meshes of the hammock, he saw the Marches coming out, as if bound on some expedition.

"What in the world are those girls about now?" thought Laurie, opening his sleepy eyes to take a good look, for there was something rather peculiar in the appearance of his neighbors. Each wore a large, flapping hat, a brown linen pouch slung over one shoulder, and carried a long staff; Meg had a cushion, Jo a book, Beth a dipper, and Amy a portfolio. All walked quietly through the garden, out at the little back gate, and began to climb the hill that lay between the house and river.

" Well, that's cool ! " said Laurie to himself, " to have a picnic and never ask me. They can't be going in the boat, for they haven't got the key. Perhaps they forgot it ; I'll take it to them, and see what's going on."

Though possessed of half a dozen hats, it took him some time to find one ; then there was a hunt for the key, which was at last discovered in his pocket, so that the girls were quite out of sight when he leaped the fence and ran after them. Taking the shortest way to the boat-house, he waited for them to appear ; but no one came, and he went up the hill to take an observation. A grove of pines covered one part of it, and from the heart of this green spot came a clearer sound than the soft sigh of the pines, or the drowsy chirp of the crickets.

" Here's a landscape ! " thought Laurie, peeping through the bushes, and looking wide awake and good- natured already.

It was rather a pretty little picture ; for the sisters