home before he asked her to marry him. He only wanted our leave to love her and work for her, and the right to make her love him if he could. He. is a truly excellent young man, and we could not refuse to listen to him ; but I will not consent to Meg's en- gaging herself so young."
" Of course not ; it would be idiotic ! I knew there was mischief brewing ; I felt it ; and now it's worse than I imagined. I just wish I could marry Meg myself, and keep her safe in the family."
This odd arrangement made Mrs. March smile ; but she said, gravely, "Jo, I confide in you, and don't wish you to say anything to Meg yet. When John comes back, and I see them together, I can judge better of her feelings toward him."
" She'll see his in those handsome eyes that she talks about, and then it will be all up with her. She's got such a soft heart, it will melt like butter in the sun if any one looks sentimentally at her. She read the short reports he sent more than she did your letters, and pinched me when I spoke of it, and likes brown eyes, and don't think John an ugly name, and she'll go and fall in love, and there's an end of peace and fun, and cosy times, together. I see it all ! they'll go lovering round the house, and we shall have to dodge ; Meg will be absorbed, and no good to me any more ; Brooke will scratch up a fortune somehow, — carry her off and make a hole in the family ; and I shall break my heart, and everything will be abominably uncomfortable. Oh, deary me ! why weren't we all boys ? then there wouldn't be any bother ! "
Jo leaned her chin on her knees, in a disconsolate