gust of wind; and the quiet, happy household was broken up as suddenly as if the paper had been an evil spell.
Mr. Laurence came hurrying back with Beth, bring- ing every comfort the kind old gentleman could think of for the invalid, and friendliest promises of protec- tion for the girls, during the mother's absence, which comforted her very much. There was nothing he didn't offer, from his own dressing-gown to himself as escort. But that last was impossible. Mrs. March would not hear of the old gentleman's undertaking the long journey ; yet an expression of relief was visible when he spoke of it, for anxiety ill fits one for travel- ling. He saw the look, knit his heavy eyebrows, rubbed his hands, and marched abruptly away, saying he'd be back directly. No one had time to think of him again till, as Meg ran through the entry, with a pair of rubbers in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, she came suddenly upon Mr. Brooke.
" I'm very sorry to hear of this. Miss March," he said, in the kind, quiet tone which sounded very pleasantly to her perturbed spirit. " I came to offer myself as escort to your mother. Mr. Laurence has commissions for me in Washington, and it will give me real satisfaction to be of service to her there."
Down dropped the rubbers, and the tea was very near following, as Meg put out her hand, with a face so full of gratitude, that Mr. Brooke would have felt repaid for a much greater sacrifice than the trifling one of time and comfort, which he was about to make.
" How kind you all are ! Mother will accept, I'm sure ; and it will be such a relief to know that she has