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302
Little Women.

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 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, over- come 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," com- manded 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