"Your what?" cried Jo, for Laurie uttered those two words with an unconscious pride and satisfaction which betrayed him.
"Oh, the dickens! Now I've done it." And he looked so guilty that Jo was down on him like a flash.
"You've gone and got married!"
"Yes, please, but I never will again." And he went down upon his knees, with a penitent clasping of hands, and a face full of mischief, mirth, and triumph.
"Very much so, thank you."
"Mercy on us. What dreadful thing will you do next?" And Jo fell into her seat with a gasp.
"A characteristic, but not exactly complimentary, congratulation," returned Laurie, still in an abject attitude, but beaming with satisfaction.
"What can you expect, when you take one's breath away, creeping in like a burglar, and letting cats out of bags like that? Get up, you ridiculous boy, and tell me all about it."
"Not a word, unless you let me come in my old place, and promise not to barricade."
Jo laughed at that as she had not done for many a long day, and patted the sofa invitingly, as she said in a cordial tone, "The old pillow is up garret, and we don't need it now. So, come and 'fess, Teddy."
"How good it sounds to hear you say `Teddy'! No one ever calls me that but you." And Laurie sat down with an air of great content.
"What does Amy call you?"
"That's like her. Well, you look it." And Jo's eye plainly betrayed that she found her boy comelier than ever.
The pillow was gone, but there was a barricade, nevertheless, a natural one, raised by time absence, and change of heart. Both felt it, and for a minute looked at one another as if that invisible barrier cast a little shadow over them. It was gone directly however, for Laurie said, with a vain attempt at dignity...
"Don't I look like a married man and the head of a family?" "Not a bit, and you never will. You've grown bigger and bonnier, but you are the same scapegrace as ever."
"Now really, Jo, you ought to treat me with more respect," began Laurie, who enjoyed it all immensely.
"How can I, when the mere idea of you, married and settled, is so irresistibly funny that I can't keep sober!" answered Jo, smiling all over her face, so infectiously that they had another laugh, and then settled down for a good talk, quite in the pleasant old fashion.
"It's no use your going out in the cold to get Amy, for they are all coming up presently. I couldn't wait. I wanted to be the one to tell you the grand surprise, and have `first skim' as we used to say when we squabbled about the cream."
"Of course you did, and spoiled your story by beginning at the wrong end. Now, start right, and tell me how it all happened. I'm pining to know."
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