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Chapter 28 – Domestic Experiences

Louisa May AlcottJun 22, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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Like most other young matrons, Meg began her married life
with the determination to be a model housekeeper. John should
find home a paradise, he should always see a smiling face,
should fare sumptuously every day, and never know the loss of
a button. She brought so much love, energy, and cheerfulness
to the work that she could not but succeed, in spite of some
obstacles. Her paradise was not a tranquil one, for the little
woman fussed, was over-anxious to please, and bustled about like
a true Martha, cumbered with many cares. She was too tired, sometimes,
even to smile, John grew dyspeptic after a course of dainty
dishes and ungratefully demanded plain fare. As for buttons,
she soon learned to wonder where they went, to shake her head over
the carelessness of men, and to threaten to make him sew them
on himself, and see if his work would stand impatient and clumsy
fingers any better than hers.

They were very happy, even after they discovered that they couldn’t
live on love alone. John did not find Meg’s beauty diminished,
though she beamed at him from behind the familiar coffee pot. Nor
did Meg miss any of the romance from the daily parting, when her
husband followed up his kiss with the tender inquiry, "Shall I send
some veal or mutton for dinner, darling?" The little house ceased to
be a glorified bower, but it became a home, and the young couple
soon felt that it was a change for the better. At first they played
keep-house, and frolicked over it like children. Then John took
steadily to business, feeling the cares of the head of a family upon
his shoulders, and Meg laid by her cambric wrappers, put on a big
apron, and fell to work, as before said, with more energy than
discretion.

While the cooking mania lasted she went through Mrs. Cornelius’s
Receipt Book as if it were a mathematical exercise, working out the
problems with patience and care. Sometimes her family were invited
in to help eat up a too bounteous feast of successes, or Lotty would
be privately dispatched with a batch of failures, which were to be
concealed from all eyes in the convenient stomachs of the little
Hummels. An evening with John over the account books usually produced
a temporary lull in the culinary enthusiasm, and a frugal fit
would ensue, during which the poor man was put through a course of
bread pudding, hash, and warmed-over coffee, which tried his soul,
although he bore it with praiseworthy fortitude. Before the golden
mean was found, however, Meg added to her domestic possessions what
young couples seldom get on long without, a family jar.

Fired a with housewifely wish to see her storeroom stocked with
homemade preserves, she undertook to put up her own currant jelly.
John was requested to order home a dozen or so of little pots and an
extra quantity of sugar, for their own currants were ripe and were
to be attended to at once. As John firmly believed that ‘my wife’
was equal to anything, and took a natural pride in her skill, he
resolved that she should be gratified, and their only crop of fruit
laid by in a most pleasing form for winter use. Home came four
dozen delightful little pots, half a barrel of sugar, and a small
boy to pick the currants for her. With her pretty hair tucked into
a little cap, arms bared to the elbow, and a checked apron which
had a coquettish look in spite of the bib, the young housewife fell
to work, feeling no doubts about her success, for hadn’t she seen
Hannah do it hundreds of times? The array of pots rather amazed her
at first, but John was so fond of jelly, and the nice little jars
would look so well on the top shelf, that Meg resolved to fill them
all, and spent a long day picking, boiling, straining, and fussing
over her jelly. She did her best, she asked advice of Mrs. Cornelius,
she racked her brain to remember what Hannah did that she left
undone, she reboiled, resugared, and restrained, but that dreadful
stuff wouldn’t ‘jell’.

She longed to run home, bib and all, and ask Mother to lend her
a hand, but John and she had agreed that they would never annoy anyone
with their private worries, experiments, or quarrels. They had
laughed over that last word as if the idea it suggested was a most
preposterous one, but they had held to their resolve, and whenever
they could get on without help they did so, and no one interfered,
for Mrs. March had advised the plan. So Meg wrestled alone with the
refractory sweetmeats all that hot summer day, and at five o’clock
sat down in her topsy-turvey kitchen, wrung her bedaubed hands,
lifted up her voice and wept.

Now, in the first flush of the new life, she had often said,
"My husband shall always feel free to bring a friend home whenever
he likes. I shall always be prepared. There shall be no flurry, no
scolding, no discomfort, but a neat house, a cheerful wife, and a
good dinner. John, dear, never stop to ask my leave, invite whom
you please, and be sure of a welcome from me."

How charming that was, to be sure! John quite glowed with
pride to hear her say it, and felt what a blessed thing it was to
have a superior wife. But, although they had had company from time
to time, it never happened to be unexpected, and Meg had never had
an opportunity to distinguish herself till now. It always happens
so in this vale of tears, there is an inevitability about such things
which we can only wonder at, deplore, and bear as we best can.

If John had not forgotten all about the jelly, it really would
have been unpardonable in him to choose that day, of all the days in
the year, to bring a friend home to dinner unexpectedly. Congratulating
himself that a handsome repast had been ordered that morning,
feeling sure that it would be ready to the minute, and indulging in
pleasant anticipations of the charming effect it would produce, when
his pretty wife came running out to meet him, he escorted his friend
to his mansion, with the irrepressible satisfaction of a young
host and husband.

It is a world of disappointments, as John discovered when he
reached the Dovecote. The front door usually stood hospitably open.
Now it was not only shut, but locked, and yesterday’s mud still
adorned the steps. The parlor windows were closed and curtained,
no picture of the pretty wife sewing on the piazza, in white, with
a distracting little bow in her hair, or a bright-eyed hostess,
smiling a shy welcome as she greeted her guest. Nothing of the sort,
for not a soul appeared but a sanginary-looking boy asleep under the
current bushes.

"I’m afraid something has happened. Step into the garden, Scott,
while I look up Mrs. Brooke," said John, alarmed at the silence and
solitude.

Round the house he hurried, led by a pungent smell of burned
sugar, and Mr. Scott strolled after him, with a queer look on his
face. He paused discreetly at a distance when Brooke disappeared,
but he could both see and hear, and being a bachelor, enjoyed the
prospect mightily.

In the kitchen reigned confusion and despair. One edition of
jelly was trickled from pot to pot, another lay upon the floor,
and a third was burning gaily on the stove. Lotty, with Teutonic
phlegm, was calmly eating bread and currant wine, for the jelly was
still in a hopelessly liquid state, while Mrs. Brooke, with her apron
over her head, sat sobbing dismally.

"My dearest girl, what is the matter?" cried John, rushing in,
with awful visions of scalded hands, sudden news of affliction, and
secret consternation at the thought of the guest in the garden.

"Oh, John, I am so tired and hot and cross and worried! I’ve
been at it till I’m all worn out. Do come and help me or I shall
die!" and the exhausted housewife cast herself upon his breast,
giving him a sweet welcome in every sense of the word, for her
pinafore had been baptized at the same time as the floor.

"What worries you dear? Has anything dreadful happened?"
asked the anxious John, tenderly kissing the crown of the little
cap, which was all askew.

"Yes," sobbed Meg despairingly.

"Tell me quick, then. Don’t cry. I can bear anything better
than that. Out with it, love."

"The . . . The jelly won’t jell and I don’t know what to do!"

John Brooke laughed then as he never dared to laugh afterward,
and the derisive Scott smiled involuntarily as he heard the hearty
peal, which put the finishing stroke to poor Meg’s woe.

"Is that all? Fling it out of the window, and don’t bother any
more about it. I’ll buy you quarts if you want it, but for heaven’s
sake don’t have hysterics, for I’ve brought Jack Scott home to dinner,
and . . ."

John got no further, for Meg cast him off, and clasped her hands
with a tragic gesture as she fell into a chair, exclaiming in a tone
of mingled indignation, reproach, and dismay . . .

"A man to dinner, and everything in a mess! John Brooke, how
could you do such a thing?"

"Hush, he’s in the garden! I forgot the confounded jelly, but
it can’t be helped now," said John, surveying the prospect with an
anxious eye.

"You ought to have sent word, or told me this morning, and you
ought to have remembered how busy I was," continued Meg petulantly,
for even turtledoves will peck when ruffled.

"I didn’t know it this morning, and there was no time to send
word, for I met him on the way out. I never thought of asking leave,
when you have always told me to do as I liked. I never tried it before,
and hang me if I ever do again!" added John, with an aggrieved air.

"I should hope not! Take him away at once. I can’t see him,
and there isn’t any dinner."

"Well, I like that! Where’s the beef and vegetables I sent
home, and the pudding you promised?" cried John, rushing to the
larder.

"I hadn’t time to cook anything. I meant to dine at Mother’s.
I’m sorry, but I was so busy," and Meg’s tears began again.

John was a mild man, but he was human, and after a long day’s
work to come home tired, hungry, and hopeful, to find a chaotic
house, an empty table, and a cross wife was not exactly conductive
to repose of mind or manner. He restrained himself however, and the
little squall would have blown over, but for one unlucky word.

"It’s a scrape, I acknowledge, but if you will lend a hand,
we’ll pull through and have a good time yet. Don’t cry, dear, but
just exert yourself a bit, and fix us up something to eat. We’re
both as hungry as hunters, so we shan’t mind what it is. Give us
the cold meat, and bread and cheese. We won’t ask for jelly."

He meant it to be a good-natured joke, but that one word sealed
his fate. Meg thought it was too cruel to hint about her sad failure,
and the last atom of patience vanished as he spoke.

"You must get yourself out of the scrape as you can. I’m too
used up to ‘exert’ myself for anyone. It’s like a man to propose
a bone and vulgar bread and cheese for company. I won’t have anything
of the sort in my house. Take that Scott up to Mother’s, and
tell him I’m away, sick, dead, anything. I won’t see him, and you
two can laugh at me and my jelly as much as you like. You won’t
have anything else here." and having delivered her defiance all
on one breath, Meg cast away her pinafore and precipitately left the
field to bemoan herself in her own room.

What those two creatures did in her absence, she never knew, but Mr.
Scott was not taken ‘up to Mother’s’, and when Meg descended, after
they had strolled away together, she found traces of a promiscuous
lunch which filled her with horror. Lotty reported that they had
eaten "a much, and greatly laughed, and the master bid her throw
away all the sweet stuff, and hide the pots."

Meg longed to go and tell Mother, but a sense of shame at her own
short-comings, of loyalty to John, "who might be cruel, but nobody
should know it," restrained her, and after a summary cleaning up,
she dressed herself prettily, and sat down to wait for John to
come and be forgiven.

Unfortunately, John didn’t come, not seeing the matter in that
light. He had carried it off as a good joke with Scott, excused his
little wife as well as he could, and played the host so hospitably
that his friend enjoyed the impromptu dinner, and promised to come
again, but John was angry, though he did not show it, he felt that
Meg had deserted him in his hour of need. "It wasn’t fair to tell
a man to bring folks home any time, with perfect freedom, and when
he took you at your word, to flame up and blame him, and leave him
in the lurch, to be laughed at or pitied. No, by George, it wasn’t!
And Meg must know it."

He had fumed inwardly during the feast, but when the flurry was
over and he strolled home after seeing Scott off, a milder mood came
over him. "Poor little thing! It was hard upon her when she tried so
heartily to please me. She was wrong, of course, but then she was
young. I must be patient and teach her." He hoped she had not gone
home – he hated gossip and interference. For a minute he was ruffled
again at the mere thought of it, and then the fear that Meg would cry
herself sick softened his heart, and sent him on at a quicker pace,
resolving to be calm and kind, but firm, quite firm, and show her
where she had failed in her duty to her spouse.

Meg likewise resolved to be ‘calm and kind, but firm’, and show
him his duty. She longed to run to meet him, and beg pardon, and be
kissed and comforted, as she was sure of being, but, of course, she
did nothing of the sort, and when she saw John coming, began to hum
quite naturally, as she rocked and sewed, like a lady of leisure in
her best parlor.

John was a little disappointed not to find a tender Niobe, but
feeling that his dignity demanded the first apology, he made none,
only came leisurely in and laid himself upon the sofa with the
singularly relevant remark, "We are going to have a new moon,
my dear."

"I’ve no objection," was Meg’s equally soothing remark. A few
other topics of general interest were introduced by Mr. Brooke and
wet-blanketed by Mrs. Brooke, and conversation languished. John
went to one window, unfolded his paper, and wrapped himself in it,
figuratively speaking. Meg went to the other window, and sewed as
if new rosettes for slippers were among the necessaries of life.
Neither spoke. Both looked quite ‘calm and firm’, and both felt
desperately uncomfortable.

"Oh, dear," thought Meg, "married life is very trying, and
does need infinite patience as well as love, as Mother says." The
word ‘Mother’ suggested other maternal counsels given long ago, and
received with unbelieving protests.

"John is a good man, but he has his faults, and you must learn to
see and bear with them, remembering your own. He is very decided,
but never will be obstinate, if you reason kindly, not oppose
impatiently. He is very accurate, and particular about the truth – a
good trait, though you call him ‘fussy’. Never deceive him by look
or word, Meg, and he will give you the confidence you deserve, the
support you need. He has a temper, not like ours – one flash and then
all over – but the white, still anger that is seldom stirred, but
once kindled is hard to quench. Be careful, be very careful, not to
wake his anger against yourself, for peace and happiness depend on
keeping his respect. Watch yourself, be the first to ask pardon if
you both err, and guard against the little piques,
misunderstandings, and hasty words that often pave the way for
bitter sorrow and regret."

These words came back to Meg, as she sat sewing in the sunset,
especially the last. This was the first serious disagreement, her
own hasty speeches sounded both silly and unkind, as she recalled
them, her own anger looked childish now, and thoughts of poor John
coming home to such a scene quite melted her heart. She glanced at
him with tears in her eyes, but he did not see them. She put down
her work and got up, thinking, "I will be the first to say,
‘Forgive me’", but he did not seem to hear her. She went very slowly
across the room, for pride was hard to swallow, and stood by him,
but he did not turn his head. For a minute she felt as if she
really couldn’t do it, then came the thought, "This is the beginning.
I’ll do my part, and have nothing to reproach myself with,"
and stooping down, she softly kissed her husband on the forehead.
Of course that settled it. The penitent kiss was better than a
world of words, and John had her on his knee in a minute, saying
tenderly . . .

"It was too bad to laugh at the poor little jelly pots.
Forgive me, dear. I never will again!"

But he did, oh bless you, yes, hundreds of times, and so did
Meg, both declaring that it was the sweetest jelly they ever made,
for family peace was preserved in that little family jar.

After this, Meg had Mr. Scott to dinner by special invitation, and
served him up a pleasant feast without a cooked wife for the first
course, on which occasion she was so gay and gracious, and made
everything go off so charmingly, that Mr. Scott told John he was a
lucky fellow, and shook his head over the hardships of bachelorhood
all the way home.

In the autumn, new trials and experiences came to Meg. Sallie
Moffat renewed her friendship, was always running out for a dish of
gossip at the little house, or inviting ‘that poor dear’ to come in
and spend the day at the big house. It was pleasant, for in dull
weather Meg often felt lonely. All were busy at home, John absent
till night, and nothing to do but sew, or read, or potter about. So
it naturally fell out that Meg got into the way of gadding and
gossiping with her friend. Seeing Sallie’s pretty things made her
long for such, and pity herself because she had not got them. Sallie
was very kind, and often offered her the coveted trifles, but Meg
declined them, knowing that John wouldn’t like it, and then this
foolish little woman went and did what John disliked even worse.

She knew her husband’s income, and she loved to feel that he trusted
her, not only with his happiness, but what some men seem to value
more – his money. She knew where it was, was free to take what she
liked, and all he asked was that she should keep account of every
penny, pay bills once a month, and remember that she was a poor
man’s wife. Till now she had done well, been prudent and exact, kept
her little account books neatly, and showed them to him monthly
without fear. But that autumn the serpent got into Meg’s paradise,
and tempted her like many a modern Eve, not with apples, but with
dress. Meg didn’t like to be pitied and made to feel poor. It
irritated her, but she was ashamed to confess it, and now and then
she tried to console herself by buying something pretty, so that
Sallie needn’t think she had to economize. She always felt wicked
after it, for the pretty things were seldom necessaries, but then
they cost so little, it wasn’t worth worrying about, so the trifles
increased unconsciously, and in the shopping excursions she was no
longer a passive looker-on.

But the trifles cost more than one would imagine, and when she
cast up her accounts at the end of the month the sum total rather
scared her. John was busy that month and left the bills to her, the
next month he was absent, but the third he had a grand quarterly
settling up, and Meg never forgot it. A few days before she had done
a dreadful thing, and it weighed upon her conscience. Sallie had
been buying silks, and Meg longed for a new one, just a handsome light
one for parties, her black silk was so common, and thin things for
evening wear were only proper for girls. Aunt March usually gave the
sisters a present of twenty-five dollars apiece at New Year’s. That
was only a month to wait, and here was a lovely violet silk going at
a bargain, and she had the money, if she only dared to take it. John
always said what was his was hers, but would he think it right to
spend not only the prospective five-and-twenty, but another
five-and-twenty out of the household fund? That was the question.
Sallie had urged her to do it, had offered to lend the money, and with
the best intentions in life had tempted Meg beyond her strength.
In an evil moment the shopman held up the lovely, shimmering folds,
and said, "A bargain, I assure, you, ma’am." She answered, "I’ll take
it," and it was cut off and paid for, and Sallie had exulted, and she
had laughed as if it were a thing of no consequence, and driven away,
feeling as if she had stolen something, and the police were after her.

When she got home, she tried to assuage the pangs of remorse
by spreading forth the lovely silk, but it looked less silvery now,
didn’t become her, after all, and the words ‘fifty dollars’ seemed
stamped like a pattern down each breadth. She put it away, but it
haunted her, not delightfully as a new dress should, but dreadfully
like the ghost of a folly that was not easily laid. When John got
out his books that night, Meg’s heart sank, and for the first time
in her married life, she was afraid of her husband. The kind, brown
eyes looked as if they could be stern, and though he was unusually
merry, she fancied he had found her out, but didn’t mean to let her
know it. The house bills were all paid, the books all in order.
John had praised her, and was undoing the old pocketbook which they
called the ‘bank’, when Meg, knowing that it was quite empty, stopped
his hand, saying nervously . . .

"You haven’t seen my private expense book yet."

John never asked to see it, but she always insisted on his doing so,
and used to enjoy his masculine amazement at the queer things women
wanted, and made him guess what piping was, demand fiercely the
meaning of a hug-me-tight, or wonder how a little thing composed of
three rosebuds, a bit of velvet, and a pair of strings, could
possibly be a bonnet, and cost six dollars. That night he looked as
if he would like the fun of quizzing her figures and pretending to
be horrified at her extravagance, as he often did, being
particularly proud of his prudent wife.

The little book was brought slowly out and laid down before him.
Meg got behind his chair under pretense of smoothing the wrinkles
out of his tired forehead, and standing there, she said, with her
panic increasing with every word . . .

"John, dear, I’m ashamed to show you my book, for I’ve really
been dreadfully extravagant lately. I go about so much I must have
things, you know, and Sallie advised my getting it, so I did, and
my New Year’s money will partly pay for it, but I was sorry after
I had done it, for I knew you’d think it wrong in me."

John laughed, and drew her round beside him, saying goodhumoredly,
"Don’t go and hide. I won’t beat you if you have got
a pair of killing boots. I’m rather proud of my wife’s feet, and
don’t mind if she does pay eight or nine dollars for her boots, if
they are good ones."

That had been one of her last ‘trifles’, and John’s eye had
fallen on it as he spoke. "Oh, what will he say when he comes to
that awful fifty dollars!" thought Meg, with a shiver.

"It’s worse than boots, it’s a silk dress," she said, with the
calmness of desperation, for she wanted the worst over.

"Well, dear, what is the ‘dem’d total’, as Mr. Mantalini says?"

That didn’t sound like John, and she knew he was looking up at
her with the straightforward look that she had always been ready to
meet and answer with one as frank till now. She turned the page and
her head at the same time, pointing to the sum which would have been
bad enough without the fifty, but which was appalling to her with
that added. For a minute the room was very still, then John said
slowly – but she could feel it cost him an effort to express no
displeasure – . . .

"Well, I don’t know that fifty is much for a dress, with all the
furbelows and notions you have to have to finish it off these days."

"It isn’t made or trimmed," sighed Meg, faintly, for a sudden
recollection of the cost still to be incurred quite overwhelmed her.

"Twenty-five yards of silk seems a good deal to cover one small
woman, but I’ve no doubt my wife will look as fine as Ned Moffat’s
when she gets it on," said John dryly.

"I know you are angry, John, but I can’t help it. I don’t mean
to waste your money, and I didn’t think those little things would
count up so. I can’t resist them when I see Sallie buying all she
wants, and pitying me because I don’t. I try to be contented, but
it is hard, and I’m tired of being poor."

The last words were spoken so low she thought he did not hear
them, but he did, and they wounded him deeply, for he had denied
himself many pleasures for Meg’s sake. She could have bitten her
tongue out the minute she had said it, for John pushed the books
away and got up, saying with a little quiver in his voice, "I was
afraid of this. I do my best, Meg." If he had scolded her, or
even shaken her, it would not have broken her heart like those few
words. She ran to him and held him close, crying, with repentant
tears, "Oh, John, my dear, kind, hard-working boy. I didn’t mean
it! It was so wicked, so untrue and ungrateful, how could I say it!
Oh, how could I say it!"

He was very kind, forgave her readily, and did not utter one
reproach, but Meg knew that she had done and said a thing which
would not be forgotten soon, although he might never allude to it
again. She had promised to love him for better or worse, and then
she, his wife, had reproached him with his poverty, after spending
his earnings recklessly. It was dreadful, and the worst of it was
John went on so quietly afterward, just as if nothing had happened,
except that he stayed in town later, and worked at night when she
had gone to cry herself to sleep. A week of remorse nearly made
Meg sick, and the discovery that John had countermanded the order
for his new greatcoat reduced her to a state of despair which was
pathetic to behold. He had simply said, in answer to her surprised
inquiries as to the change, "I can’t afford it, my dear."

Meg said no more, but a few minutes after he found her in the
hall with her face buried in the old greatcoat, crying as if her
heart would break.

They had a long talk that night, and Meg learned to love her
husband better for his poverty, because it seemed to have made a
man of him, given him the strength and courage to fight his own way,
and taught him a tender patience with which to bear and comfort
the natural longings and failures of those he loved.

Next day she put her pride in her pocket, went to Sallie, told
the truth, and asked her to buy the silk as a favor. The good-
natured Mrs. Moffat willingly did so, and had the delicacy not to
make her a present of it immediately afterward. Then Meg ordered
home the greatcoat, and when John arrived, she put it on, and asked
him how he liked her new silk gown. One can imagine what answer he
made, how he received his present, and what a blissful state of
things ensued. John came home early, Meg gadded no more, and that
greatcoat was put on in the morning by a very happy husband, and
taken off at night by a most devoted little wife. So the year
rolled round, and at midsummer there came to Meg a new experience,
the deepest and tenderest of a woman’s life.

Laurie came sneaking into the kitchen of the Dovecote one
Saturday, with an excited face, and was received with the clash
of cymbals, for Hannah clapped her hands with a saucepan in one
and the cover in the other.

"How’s the little mamma? Where is everybody? Why didn’t
you tell me before I came home?" began Laurie in a loud whisper.

"Happy as a queen, the dear! Every soul of ’em is upstairs
a worshipin’. We didn’t want no hurrycanes round. Now you go
into the parlor, and I’ll send ’em down to you," with which
somewhat involved reply Hannah vanished, chuckling ecstatically.

Presently Jo appeared, proudly bearing a flannel bundle laid
forth upon a large pillow. Jo’s face was very sober, but her eyes
twinkled, and there was an odd sound in her voice of repressed
emotion of some sort.

"Shut your eyes and hold out your arms," she said invitingly.

Laurie backed precipitately into a corner, and put his hands
behind him with an imploring gesture. "No, thank you. I’d rather
not. I shall drop it or smash it, as sure as fate."

"Then you shan’t see your nevvy," said Jo decidedly, turning
as if to go.

"I will, I will! Only you must be responsible for damages."
and obeying orders, Laurie heroically shut his eyes while something
was put into his arms. A peal of laughter from Jo, Amy,
Mrs. March, Hannah, and John caused him to open them the next
minute, to find himself invested with two babies instead of one.

No wonder they laughed, for the expression of his face was
droll enough to convulse a Quaker, as he stood and stared wildly
from the unconscious innocents to the hilarious spectators with
such dismay that Jo sat down on the floor and screamed.

"Twins, by Jupiter!" was all he said for a minute, then
turning to the women with an appealing look that was comically
piteous, he added, "Take ’em quick, somebody! I’m going to
laugh, and I shall drop ’em."

Jo rescued his babies, and marched up and down, with one on each
arm, as if already initiated into the mysteries of babytending,
while Laurie laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.

"It’s the best joke of the season, isn’t it? I wouldn’t have
told you, for I set my heart on surprising you, and I flatter
myself I’ve done it," said Jo, when she got her breath.

"I never was more staggered in my life. Isn’t it fun? Are they
boys? What are you going to name them? Let’s have another look. Hold
me up, Jo, for upon my life it’s one too many for me," returned
Laurie, regarding the infants with the air of a big, benevolent
Newfoundland looking at a pair of infantile kittens.

"Boy and girl. Aren’t they beauties?" said the proud papa,
beaming upon the little red squirmers as if they were unfledged angels.

"Most remarkable children I ever saw. Which is which?" and
Laurie bent like a well-sweep to examine the prodigies.

"Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl,
French fashion, so you can always tell. Besides, one has blue
eyes and one brown. Kiss them, Uncle Teddy," said wicked Jo.

"I’m afraid they mightn’t like it," began Laurie, with unusual
timidity in such matters.

"Of course they will, they are used to it now. Do it this
minute, sir!" commanded Jo, fearing he might propose a proxy.

Laurie screwed up his face and obeyed with a gingerly peck
at each little cheek that produced another laugh, and made the
babies squeal.

"There, I knew they didn’t like it! That’s the boy, see
him kick, he hits out with his fists like a good one. Now then,
young Brooke, pitch into a man of your own size, will you?" cried
Laurie, delighted with a poke in the face from a tiny fist, flapping
aimlessly about.

"He’s to be named John Laurence, and the girl Margaret, after
mother and grandmother. We shall call her Daisey, so as not to
have two Megs, and I suppose the mannie will be Jack, unless we
find a better name," said Amy, with aunt-like interest.

"Name him Demijohn, and call him Demi for short," said Laurie

"Daisy and Demi, just the thing! I knew Teddy would do it,"
cried Jo clapping her hands.

Teddy certainly had done it that time, for the babies were
‘Daisy’ and ‘Demi’ to the end of the chapter.

 

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