she had lived as happily as a child. Her innocent friendship with Laurie was spoiled by the silly speeches she had overheard. Her faith in her mother was a little shaken by the worldly plans attributed to her by Mrs. Moffat, who judged others by herself, and the sensible resolution to be contented with the simple wardrobe which suited a poor man’s daughter was weakened by the unnecessary pity of girls who thought a shabby dress one of the greatest calamities under heaven.
Poor Meg had a restless night, and got up heavy-eyed, unhappy, half resentful toward her friends, and half ashamed of herself for not speaking out frankly and setting everything right. Everybody dawdled that morning, and it was noon before the girls found energy enough even to take up their worsted work. Something in the manner of her friends struck Meg at once. They treated her with more respect, she thought, took quite a tender interest in what she said, and looked at her with eyes that plainly betrayed curiosity. All this surprised and flattered her, though she did not understand it till Miss Belle looked up from her writing, and said, with a sentimental air…
“Daisy, dear, I’ve sent an invitation to your friend, Mr. Laurence, for Thursday. We should like to know him, and it’s only a proper compliment to you.”
Meg colored, but a mischievous fancy to tease the girls made her reply demurely, “You are very kind, but I’m afraid he won’t come.”
“Why not, Cherie?” asked Miss Belle.
“He’s too old.”
“My child, what do you mean? What is his age, I beg to know!” cried Miss Clara.
“Nearly seventy, I believe,” answered Meg, counting stitches to hide the merriment in her eyes.
“You sly creature! Of course we meant the young man,” exclaimed Miss Belle, laughing.
“There isn’t any, Laurie is only a little boy.” And Meg laughed also at the queer look which the sisters exchanged as she thus described her supposed lover.
“About your age,” Nan said.
“Nearer my sister Jo’s; I am seventeen in August,” returned Meg, tossing her head.
“It’s very nice of him to send you flowers, isn’t it?” said Annie, looking wise about nothing.
“Yes, he often does, to all of us, for their house is full, and we are so fond of them. My mother and old Mr. Laurence are friends, you know, so it is quite natural that we children should play together,” and Meg hoped they would say no more.
“It’s evident Daisy isn’t out yet,” said Miss Clara to Belle with a nod.
“Quite a pastoral state of innocence all round,” returned Miss Belle with a shrug.
“I’m going out to get some little matters for my girls. Can I do anything for you, young ladies?” asked Mrs. Moffat, lumbering in like an elephant in silk and lace.
“No, thank you, ma’am,” replied Sallie. “I’ve got my new pink silk for Thursday and don’t want a thing.”
“Nor I… ” began Meg, but stopped because it occurred to her that she did want several things and could not have them.
“What shall you wear?” asked Sallie.
“My old white one again, if I can mend it fit to be seen, it got sadly torn last night,” said Meg, trying to speak quite easily, but feeling very uncomfortable.
“Why don’t you send home for another?” said Sallie, who was not an observing young lady.
“I haven’t got any other.” It cost Meg an effort to say that, but Sallie did not see it and exclaimed in amiable surprise, “Only that? How funny… ” She did not finish her speech, for Belle shook her head at her and broke in, saying kindly…