Here! answered a husky voice from above; and, running up, Meg found her sister eating apples and crying over the Heir of Redclyffe, wrapped up in a comforter on an old three-legged sofa by the sunny window. This was Jos favorite refuge; and here she loved to retire with half a dozen russets and a nice book, to enjoy the quiet and the society of a pet rat who lived near by, and did nt mind her a particle. As Meg appeared, Scrabble whisked into his hole. Jo shook the tears off her cheeks, and waited to hear the news.
I m sure our pops look like silk, and they are nice enough for us. Yours is as good as new, but I forgot the burn and the tear in mine. Whatever shall I do? the burn shows badly, and I cant take any out.
You must sit still all you can, and keep your back out of sight; the front is all right. I shall have a new ribbon for my hair, and Marmee will lend me her little pearl pin, and my new slippers are lovely, and my gloves will do, though they are nt as nice as I d like.
You cant ask mother for new ones, they are so expensive, and you are so careless. She said, when you spoilt the others, that she should nt get you any more this winter. Cant you make them do? asked Meg anxiously.
I can hold them crumpled up in my hand, so no one will know how stained they are; that s all I can do. No! I ll tell you how we can manageeach wear one good one and carry a bad one; dont you see?
So Meg went away to accept with thanks, look over her dress, and sing blithely as she did up her one real lace frill; while Jo finished her story, her four apples, and had a game of romps with Scrabble.
On New-Years Eve the parlor was deserted, for the two younger girls played dressing-maids, and the two elder were absorbed in the all-important business of getting ready for the party. Simple as the toilets were, there was a great deal of running up and down, laughing and talking, and at one time a strong smell of burned hair pervaded the house. Meg wanted a few curls about her face, and Jo undertook to pinch the papered locks with a pair of hot tongs.
Just my luck! You should nt have asked me to do it; I always spoil everything. I m so sorry, but the tongs were too hot, and so I ve made a mess, groaned poor Jo, regarding the black pancakes with tears of regret.
After various lesser mishaps, Meg was finished at last, and by the united exertions of the family Jos hair was got up and her dress on. They looked very well in their simple suits,Meg in silvery drab, with a blue velvet snood, lace frills, and the pearl pin; Jo in maroon, with a stiff, gentlemanly linen collar, and a white chrysanthemum or two for her only ornament. Each put on one nice light glove, and carried one soiled one, and all pronounced the effect quite easy and fine. Megs high-heeled slippers were very tight, and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jos nineteen hair-pins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!
Have a good time, dearies! said Mrs. March, as the sisters went daintily down the walk. Dont eat much supper, and come away at eleven, when I send Hannah for you. As the gate clashed behind them, a voice cried from a window,
It is one of her aristocratic tastes, and quite proper, for a real lady is always known by neat boots, gloves, and handkerchief, replied Meg, who had a good many little aristocratic tastes of her own.
Now dont forget to keep the bad breadth out of sight, Jo. Is my sash right? and does my hair look very bad? said Meg, as she turned from the glass in Mrs. Gardiners dressing-room, after a prolonged prink.
No, winking is nt lady-like; I ll lift my eyebrows if anything is wrong, and nod if you are all right. Now hold your shoulder straight, and take short steps, and dont shake hands if you are introduced to any one: it is nt the thing.
Down they went, feeling a trifle timid, for they seldom went to parties, and, informal as this little gathering was, it was an event to them. Mrs. Gardiner, a stately old lady, greeted them kindly, and handed them over to the eldest of her six daughters. Meg knew Sallie, and was at her ease very soon; but Jo, who did nt care much for girls or girlish gossip, stood about, with her back carefully against the wall, and felt as much out of place as a colt in a flower-garden. Half a dozen jovial lads were talking about skates in another part of the room, and she longed to go and join them, for skating was one of the joys of her life. She telegraphed her wish to Meg, but the eyebrows went up so alarmingly that she dared not stir. No one came to talk to her, and one by one the group near her dwindled away, till she was left alone. She could not roam about and amuse herself, for the burnt breadth would show, so she stared at people rather forlornly till the dancing began. Meg was asked at once, and the tight slippers tripped about so briskly that none would have guessed the pain their wearer suffered smilingly. Jo saw a big red-headed youth approaching her corner, and fearing he meant to engage her, she slipped into a curtained recess, intending to peep and enjoy herself in peace. Unfortunately, another bashful person had chosen the same refuge; for, as the curtain fell behind her, she found herself face to face with the Laurence boy.
I like it well enough if there is plenty of room, and every one is lively. In a place like this I m sure to upset something, tread on peoples toes, or do something dreadful, so I keep out of mischief, and let Meg sail about. Dont you dance?
Laurie did nt seem to know where to begin; but Jos eager questions soon set him going, and he told her how he had been at school in Vevay, where the boys never wore hats, and had a fleet of boats on the lake, and for holiday fun went walking trips about Switzerland with their teachers.
Jo quite glowed with pleasure at this boyish praise of her sister, and stored it up to repeat to Meg. Both peeped and criticised and chatted, till they felt like old acquaintances. Lauries bashfulness soon wore off; for Jos gentlemanly demeanor amused and set him at his ease, and Jo was her merry self again, because her dress was forgotten, and nobody lifted their eyebrows at her. She liked the Laurence boy better than ever, and took several good looks at him, so that she might describe him to the girls; for they had no brothers, very few male cousins, and boys were almost unknown creatures to them.
Jo wanted very much to ask what his own way was; but his black brows looked rather threatening as he knit them; so she changed the subject by saying, as her foot kept time, That s a splendid polka! Why dont you go and try it?
Well, I have a bad trick of standing before the fire, and so I burn my frocks, and I scorched this one; and, though it s nicely mended, it shows, and Meg told me to keep still, so no one would see it. You may laugh, if you want to; it is funny, I know.
Jo thanked him, and gladly went, wishing she had two neat gloves, when she saw the nice, pearl-colored ones her partner wore. The hall was empty, and they had a grand polka; for Laurie danced well, and taught her the German step, which delighted Jo, being full of swing and spring. When the music stopped, they sat down on the stairs to get their breath; and Laurie was in the midst of an account of a students festival at Heidelberg, when Meg appeared in search of her sister. She beckoned, and Jo reluctantly followed her into a side room, where she found her on a sofa, holding her foot, and looking pale.
I ve sprained my ankle. That stupid high heel turned, and gave me a sad wrench. It aches so, I can hardly stand, and I dont know how I m ever going to get home, she said, rocking to and fro in pain.
I knew you d hurt your feet with those silly shoes. I m sorry. But I dont see what you can do, except get a carriage, or stay here all night, answered Jo, softly rubbing the poor ankle as she spoke.
Mercy, no! Dont ask or tell any one. Get me my rubbers, and put these slippers with our things. I cant dance any more; but as soon as supper is over, watch for Hannah, and tell me the minute she comes.
So Meg reclined, with rubbers well hidden, and Jo went blundering away to the dining-room, which she found after going into a china-closet, and opening the door of a room where old Mr. Gardiner was taking a little private refreshment. Making a dart at the table, she secured the coffee, which she immediately spilt, thereby making the front of her dress as bad as the back.
Jo led the way; and, as if used to waiting on ladies, Laurie drew up a little table, brought a second instalment of coffee and ice for Jo, and was so obliging that even particular Meg pronounced him a nice boy. They had a merry time over the bonbons and mottoes, and were in the midst of a quiet game of Buzz, with two or three other young people who had strayed in, when Hannah appeared. Meg forgot her foot, and rose so quickly that she was forced to catch hold of Jo, with an exclamation of pain.
Hannah scolded, Meg cried, and Jo was at her wits end, till she decided to take things into her own hands. Slipping out, she ran down, and, finding a servant, asked if he could get her a carriage. It happened to be a hired waiter, who knew nothing about the neighborhood; and Jo was looking round for help, when Laurie, who had heard what she said, came up, and offered his grandfathers carriage, which had just come for him, he said.
That settled it; and telling him of Megs mishap, Jo gratefully accepted, and rushed up to bring down the rest of the party. Hannah hated rain as much as a cat does; so she made no trouble, and they rolled away in the luxurious close carriage, feeling very festive and elegant. Laurie went on the box; so Meg could keep her foot up, and the girls talked over their party in freedom.
Yes, till I hurt myself. Sallies friend, Annie Moffat, took a fancy to me, and asked me to come and spend a week with her, when Sallie does. She is going in the spring, when the opera comes; and it will be perfectly splendid, if mother only lets me go, answered Meg, cheering up at the thought.
Jo told her adventures, and, by the time she had finished, they were at home. With many thanks, they said Good-night, and crept in, hoping to disturb no one; but the instant their door creaked, two little night-caps bobbed up, and two sleepy but eager voices cried out,
I declare, it really seems like being a fine young lady, to come home from the party in a carriage, and sit in my dressing-gown, with a maid to wait on me, said Meg, as Jo bound up her foot with arnica, and brushed her hair.
I dont believe fine young ladies enjoy themselves a bit more than we do, in spite of our burnt hair, old gowns, one glove apiece, and tight slippers that sprain our ankles when we are silly enough to wear them. And I think Jo was quite right.