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269
Dark Days.

as if groping in the dark, and Laurie took it in his, whispering, as well as he could, with a lump in his throat, —

"I'm here, hold on to me, Jo, dear ! "

She could not speak, but she did " hold on," and the warm grasp of the friendly human hand com- forted her sore heart, and seemed to lead her nearer to the Divine arm which alone could uphold her in her trouble. Laurie longed to say something tender and comfortable, but no fitting words came to him, so he stood silent, gently stroking her bent head as her mother used to do. It was the best thing he could have done ; far more soothing than the most eloquent words, for Jo felt the unspoken sympathy, and, in the silence, learned the sweet solace which affection ad- ministers to sorrow. Soon she dried the tears which had relieved her, and looked up with a grateful face.

" Thank you, Teddy, I'm better now ; I don't feel so forlorn, and will try to bear it if it comes."

" Keep hoping for the best ; that will help you lots, Jo. Soon your mother will be here, and then every- thing will be right."

" I'm so glad father is better ; now she won't feel so bad about leaving him. Oh, me ! it does seem as if all the troubles came in a heap, and I got the heaviest part on my shoulders," sighed Jo, spreading her wet handkerchief over her knees, to dry.

"Don't Meg pull fair?" asked Laurie, looking in- dignant.

"Oh, yes; she tries to, but she don't love Bethy as I do; and she won't miss her as I shall. Beth is my conscience, and I can't give her up; I can't! I can't!"