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Jo's Boys

Chapter 9: The Worm Turns
Two very superior bicycles went twinkling up the road to Plumfield one
September afternoon, bearing two brown and dusty riders evidently returning
from a successful run, for though their legs might be a trifle weary, their faces
beamed as they surveyed the world from their lofty perches with the air of calm
content all wheelmen wear after they have learned to ride; before that happy
period anguish of mind and body is the chief expression of the manly
'Go ahead and report, Tom; I'm due here. See you later,' said Demi, swinging
himself down at the door of the Dovecote.
'Don't peach, there's a good fellow. Let me have it out with Mother Bhaer first,'
returned Tom, wheeling in at the gate with a heavy sigh.
Demi laughed, and his comrade went slowly up the avenue, devoutly hoping that
the coast was clear; for he was the bearer of tidings which would, he thought,
convulse the entire family with astonishment and dismay.
To his great joy Mrs Jo was discovered alone in a grove of proof-sheets, which
she dropped, to greet the returning wanderer cordially. But after the first glance
she saw that something was the matter, recent events having made her
unusually sharp-eyed and suspicious.
'What is it now, Tom?' she asked, as he subsided into an easy-chair with a
curious expression of mingled fear, shame, amusement, and distress in his brick-
red countenance.
'I'm in an awful scrape, ma'am.'
'Of course; I'm always prepared for scrapes when you appear. What is it? Run
over some old lady who is going to law about it?' asked Mrs Jo cheerfully.
'Worse than that,' groaned Tom.
'Not poisoned some trusting soul who asked you to prescribe, I hope?'
'Worse than that.'
'You haven't let Demi catch any horrid thing and left him behind, have you?'
'Worse even than that.'
'I give it up. Tell me quick; I hate to wait for bad news.'
Having got his listener sufficiently excited, Tom launched his thunderbolt in one
brief sentence, and fell back to watch the effect.
'I'm engaged!'
Mrs Jo's proof-sheets flew wildly about as she clasped her hands, exclaiming in
'If Nan has yielded, I'll never forgive her!'
'She hasn't; it's another girl.'
Tom's face was so funny as he said the words, that it was impossible to help
laughing; for he looked both sheepish and pleased, besides very much perplexed
and worried.
'I'm glad, very glad indeed! Don't care who it is; and I hope you'll be married
soon. Now tell me all about it,' commanded Mrs Jo, so much relieved that she felt
ready for anything.