"You don't mean to say you have forgotten that you promised to make half _ozen calls with me today?"
"I've done a good many rash and foolish things in my life, but I don't think _ver was mad enough to say I'd make six calls in one day, when a single on_psets me for a week."
"Yes, you did, it was a bargain between us. I was to finish the crayon of Bet_or you, and you were to go properly with me, and return our neighbors'
"If it was fair, that was in the bond, and I stand to the letter of my bond, Shylock. There is a pile of clouds in the east, it's not fair, and I don'_o."
"Now, that's shirking. It's a lovely day, no prospect of rain, and you prid_ourself on keeping promises, so be honorable, come and do your duty, and the_e at peace for another six months."
At that minute Jo was particularly absorbed in dressmaking, for she wa_antua-maker general to the family, and took especial credit to hersel_ecause she could use a needle as well as a pen. It was very provoking to b_rrested in the act of a first trying-on, and ordered out to make calls in he_est array on a warm July day. She hated calls of the formal sort, and neve_ade any till Amy compelled her with a bargain, bribe, or promise. In th_resent instance there was no escape, and having clashed her scissor_ebelliously, while protesting that she smelled thunder, she gave in, put awa_er work, and taking up her hat and gloves with an air of resignation, tol_my the victim was ready.
"Jo March, you are perverse enough to provoke a saint! You don't intend t_ake calls in that state, I hope," cried Amy, surveying her with amazement.
"Why not? I'm neat and cool and comfortable, quite proper for a dusty walk o_ warm day. If people care more for my clothes than they do for me, I don'_ish to see them. You can dress for both, and be as elegant as you please. I_ays for you to be fine. It doesn't for me, and furbelows only worry me."
"Oh, dear!" sighed Amy, "now she's in a contrary fit, and will drive m_istracted before I can get her properly ready. I'm sure it's no pleasure t_e to go today, but it's a debt we owe society, and there's no one to pay i_ut you and me. I'll do anything for you, Jo, if you'll only dress yoursel_icely, and come and help me do the civil. You can talk so well, look s_ristocratic in your best things, and behave so beautifully, if you try, tha_'m proud of you. I'm afraid to go alone, do come and take care of me."
"You're an artful little puss to flatter and wheedle your cross old sister i_hat way. The idea of my being aristocratic and well-bred, and your bein_fraid to go anywhere alone! I don't know which is the most absurd. Well, I'l_o if I must, and do my best. You shall be commander of the expedition, an_'ll obey blindly, will that satisfy you?" said Jo, with a sudden change fro_erversity to lamblike submission.
"You're a perfect cherub! Now put on all your best things, and I'll tell yo_ow to behave at each place, so that you will make a good impression. I wan_eople to like you, and they would if you'd only try to be a little mor_greeable. Do your hair the pretty way, and put the pink rose in your bonnet.
It's becoming, and you look too sober in your plain suit. Take your ligh_loves and the embroidered handkerchief. We'll stop at Meg's, and borrow he_hite sunshade, and then you can have my dove-colored one."
While Amy dressed, she issued her orders, and Jo obeyed them, not withou_ntering her protest, however, for she sighed as she rustled into her ne_rgandie, frowned darkly at herself as she tied her bonnet strings in a_rreproachable bow, wrestled viciously with pins as she put on her collar, wrinkled up her features generally as she shook out the handkerchief, whos_mbroidery was as irritating to her nose as the present mission was to he_eelings, and when she had squeezed her hands into tight gloves with thre_uttons and a tassel, as the last touch of elegance, she turned to Amy with a_mbecile expression of countenance, saying meekly…
"I'm perfectly miserable, but if you consider me presentable, I die happy."
"You're highly satisfactory. Turn slowly round, and let me get a carefu_iew." Jo revolved, and Amy gave a touch here and there, then fell back, wit_er head on one side, observing graciously, "Yes, you'll do. Your head is al_ could ask, for that white bonnet with the rose is quite ravishing. Hold bac_our shoulders, and carry your hands easily, no matter if your gloves d_inch. There's one thing you can do well, Jo, that is, wear a shawl. I can't, but it's very nice to see you, and I'm so glad Aunt March gave you that lovel_ne. It's simple, but handsome, and those folds over the arm are reall_rtistic. Is the point of my mantle in the middle, and have I looped my dres_venly? I like to show my boots, for my feet are pretty, though my nos_sn't."
"You are a thing of beauty and a joy forever," said Jo, looking through he_and with the air of a connoisseur at the blue feather against the golde_air. "Am I to drag my best dress through the dust, or loop it up, please, ma'am?"
"Hold it up when you walk, but drop it in the house. The sweeping style suit_ou best, and you must learn to trail your skirts gracefully. You haven't hal_uttoned one cuff, do it at once. You'll never look finished if you are no_areful about the little details, for they make up the pleasing whole."
Jo sighed, and proceeded to burst the buttons off her glove, in doing up he_uff, but at last both were ready, and sailed away, looking as 'pretty a_icters', Hannah said, as she hung out of the upper window to watch them.
"Now, Jo dear, the Chesters consider themselves very elegant people, so I wan_ou to put on your best deportment. Don't make any of your abrupt remarks, o_o anything odd, will you? Just be calm, cool, and quiet, that's safe an_adylike, and you can easily do it for fifteen minutes," said Amy, as the_pproached the first place, having borrowed the white parasol and bee_nspected by Meg, with a baby on each arm.
"Let me see. 'Calm, cool, and quiet', yes, I think I can promise that. I'v_layed the part of a prim young lady on the stage, and I'll try it off. M_owers are great, as you shall see, so be easy in your mind, my child."
Amy looked relieved, but naughty Jo took her at her word, for during the firs_all she sat with every limb gracefully composed, every fold correctly draped, calm as a summer sea, cool as a snowbank, and as silent as the sphinx. In vai_rs. Chester alluded to her 'charming novel', and the Misses Cheste_ntroduced parties, picnics, the opera, and the fashions. Each and all wer_nswered by a smile, a bow, and a demure "Yes" or "No" with the chill on. I_ain Amy telegraphed the word 'talk', tried to draw her out, and administere_overt pokes with her foot. Jo sat as if blandly unconscious of it all, wit_eportment like Maud's face, 'icily regular, splendidly null'.
"What a haughty, uninteresting creature that oldest Miss March is!" was th_nfortunately audible remark of one of the ladies, as the door closed upo_heir guests. Jo laughed noiselessly all through the hall, but Amy looke_isgusted at the failure of her instructions, and very naturally laid th_lame upon Jo.
"How could you mistake me so? I merely meant you to be properly dignified an_omposed, and you made yourself a perfect stock and stone. Try to be sociabl_t the Lambs'. Gossip as other girls do, and be interested in dress an_lirtations and whatever nonsense comes up. They move in the best society, ar_aluable persons for us to know, and I wouldn't fail to make a good impressio_here for anything."
"I'll be agreeable. I'll gossip and giggle, and have horrors and raptures ove_ny trifle you like. I rather enjoy this, and now I'll imitate what is called
'a charming girl'. I can do it, for I have May Chester as a model, and I'l_mprove upon her. See if the Lambs don't say, 'What a lively, nice creatur_hat Jo March is!"
Amy felt anxious, as well she might, for when Jo turned freakish there was n_nowing where she would stop. Amy's face was a study when she saw her siste_kim into the next drawing room, kiss all the young ladies with effusion, bea_raciously upon the young gentlemen, and join in the chat with a spirit whic_mazed the beholder. Amy was taken possession of by Mrs. Lamb, with whom sh_as a favorite, and forced to hear a long account of Lucretia's last attack, while three delightful young gentlemen hovered near, waiting for a pause whe_hey might rush in and rescue her. So situated, she was powerless to check Jo, who seemed possessed by a spirit of mischief, and talked away as volubly a_he lady. A knot of heads gathered about her, and Amy strained her ears t_ear what was going on, for broken sentences filled her with curiosity, an_requent peals of laughter made her wild to share the fun. One may imagine he_uffering on overhearing fragments of this sort of conversation.
"She rides splendidly. Who taught her?"
"No one. She used to practice mounting, holding the reins, and sittin_traight on an old saddle in a tree. Now she rides anything, for she doesn'_now what fear is, and the stableman lets her have horses cheap because sh_rains them to carry ladies so well. She has such a passion for it, I ofte_ell her if everything else fails, she can be a horsebreaker, and get he_iving so."
At this awful speech Amy contained herself with difficulty, for the impressio_as being given that she was rather a fast young lady, which was her especia_version. But what could she do? For the old lady was in the middle of he_tory, and long before it was done, Jo was off again, making more drol_evelations and committing still more fearful blunders.
"Yes, Amy was in despair that day, for all the good beasts were gone, and o_hree left, one was lame, one blind, and the other so balky that you had t_ut dirt in his mouth before he would start. Nice animal for a pleasure party, wasn't it?"
"Which did she choose?" asked one of the laughing gentlemen, who enjoyed th_ubject.
"None of them. She heard of a young horse at the farm house over the river, and though a lady had never ridden him, she resolved to try, because he wa_andsome and spirited. Her struggles were really pathetic. There was no one t_ring the horse to the saddle, so she took the saddle to the horse. My dea_reature, she actually rowed it over the river, put it on her head, an_arched up to the barn to the utter amazement of the old man!"
"Did she ride the horse?"
"Of course she did, and had a capital time. I expected to see her brought hom_n fragments, but she managed him perfectly, and was the life of the party."
"Well, I call that plucky!" and young Mr. Lamb turned an approving glance upo_my, wondering what his mother could be saying to make the girl look so re_nd uncomfortable.
She was still redder and more uncomfortable a moment after, when a sudden tur_n the conversation introduced the subject of dress. One of the young ladie_sked Jo where she got the pretty drab hat she wore to the picnic and stupi_o, instead of mentioning the place where it was bought two years ago, mus_eeds answer with unnecessary frankness, "Oh, Amy painted it. You can't bu_hose soft shades, so we paint ours any color we like. It's a great comfort t_ave an artistic sister."
"Isn't that an original idea?" cried Miss Lamb, who found Jo great fun.
"That's nothing compared to some of her brilliant performances. There'_othing the child can't do. Why, she wanted a pair of blue boots for Sallie'_arty, so she just painted her soiled white ones the loveliest shade of sk_lue you ever saw, and they looked exactly like satin," added Jo, with an ai_f pride in her sister's accomplishments that exasperated Amy till she fel_hat it would be a relief to throw her cardcase at her.
"We read a story of yours the other day, and enjoyed it very much," observe_he elder Miss Lamb, wishing to compliment the literary lady, who did not loo_he character just then, it must be confessed.
Any mention of her 'works' always had a bad effect upon Jo, who either gre_igid and looked offended, or changed the subject with a brusque remark, a_ow. "Sorry you could find nothing better to read. I write that rubbis_ecause it sells, and ordinary people like it. Are you going to New York thi_inter?"
As Miss Lamb had 'enjoyed' the story, this speech was not exactly grateful o_omplimentary. The minute it was made Jo saw her mistake, but fearing to mak_he matter worse, suddenly remembered that it was for her to make the firs_ove toward departure, and did so with an abruptness that left three peopl_ith half-finished sentences in their mouths.
"Amy, we must go. Good-by, dear, do come and see us. We are pining for _isit. I don't dare to ask you, Mr. Lamb, but if you should come, I don'_hink I shall have the heart to send you away."
Jo said this with such a droll imitation of May Chester's gushing style tha_my got out of the room as rapidly as possible, feeling a strong desire t_augh and cry at the same time.
"Didn't I do well?" asked Jo, with a satisfied air as they walked away.
"Nothing could have been worse," was Amy's crushing reply. "What possessed yo_o tell those stories about my saddle, and the hats and boots, and all th_est of it?"
"Why, it's funny, and amuses people. They know we are poor, so it's no us_retending that we have grooms, buy three or four hats a season, and hav_hings as easy and fine as they do."
"You needn't go and tell them all our little shifts, and expose our poverty i_hat perfectly unnecessary way. You haven't a bit of proper pride, and neve_ill learn when to hold your tongue and when to speak," said Amy despairingly.
Poor Jo looked abashed, and silently chafed the end of her nose with the stif_andkerchief, as if performing a penance for her misdemeanors.
"How shall I behave here?" she asked, as they approached the third mansion.
"Just as you please. I wash my hands of you," was Amy's short answer.
"Then I'll enjoy myself. The boys are at home, and we'll have a comfortabl_ime. Goodness knows I need a little change, for elegance has a bad effec_pon my constitution," returned Jo gruffly, being disturbed by her failure t_uit.
An enthusiastic welcome from three big boys and several pretty childre_peedily soothed her ruffled feelings, and leaving Amy to entertain th_ostess and Mr. Tudor, who happened to be calling likewise, Jo devoted hersel_o the young folks and found the change refreshing. She listened to colleg_tories with deep interest, caressed pointers and poodles without a murmur, agreed heartily that "Tom Brown was a brick," regardless of the improper for_f praise, and when one lad proposed a visit to his turtle tank, she went wit_n alacrity which caused Mamma to smile upon her, as that motherly lad_ettled the cap which was left in a ruinous condition by filial hugs, bearlik_ut affectionate, and dearer to her than the most faultless coiffure from th_ands of an inspired Frenchwoman.
Leaving her sister to her own devices, Amy proceeded to enjoy herself to he_eart's content. Mr. Tudor's uncle had married an English lady who was thir_ousin to a living lord, and Amy regarded the whole family with great respect, for in spite of her American birth and breeding, she possessed that reverenc_or titles which haunts the best of us—that unacknowledged loyalty to th_arly faith in kings which set the most democratic nation under the sun i_erment at the coming of a royal yellow-haired laddie, some years ago, an_hich still has something to do with the love the young country bears the old, like that of a big son for an imperious little mother, who held him while sh_ould, and let him go with a farewell scolding when he rebelled. But even th_atisfaction of talking with a distant connection of the British nobility di_ot render Amy forgetful of time, and when the proper number of minutes ha_assed, she reluctantly tore herself from this aristocratic society, an_ooked about for Jo, fervently hoping that her incorrigible sister would no_e found in any position which should bring disgrace upon the name of March.
It might have been worse, but Amy considered it bad. For Jo sat on the grass, with an encampment of boys about her, and a dirty-footed dog reposing on th_kirt of her state and festival dress, as she related one of Laurie's prank_o her admiring audience. One small child was poking turtles with Amy'_herished parasol, a second was eating gingerbread over Jo's best bonnet, an_ third playing ball with her gloves, but all were enjoying themselves, an_hen Jo collected her damaged property to go, her escort accompanied her, begging her to come again, "It was such fun to hear about Laurie's larks."
"Capital boys, aren't they? I feel quite young and brisk again after that."
said Jo, strolling along with her hands behind her, partly from habit, partl_o conceal the bespattered parasol.
"Why do you always avoid Mr. Tudor?" asked Amy, wisely refraining from an_omment upon Jo's dilapidated appearance.
"Don't like him, he puts on airs, snubs his sisters, worries his father, an_oesn't speak respectfully of his mother. Laurie says he is fast, and I don'_onsider him a desirable acquaintance, so I let him alone."
"You might treat him civilly, at least. You gave him a cool nod, and just no_ou bowed and smiled in the politest way to Tommy Chamberlain, whose fathe_eeps a grocery store. If you had just reversed the nod and the bow, it woul_ave been right," said Amy reprovingly.
"No, it wouldn't," returned Jo, "I neither like, respect, nor admire Tudor, though his grandfather's uncle's nephew's niece was a third cousin to a lord.
Tommy is poor and bashful and good and very clever. I think well of him, an_ike to show that I do, for he is a gentleman in spite of the brown pape_arcels."
"It's no use trying to argue with you," began Amy.
"Not the least, my dear," interrupted Jo, "so let us look amiable, and drop _ard here, as the Kings are evidently out, for which I'm deeply grateful."
The family cardcase having done its duty the girls walked on, and Jo uttere_nother thanksgiving on reaching the fifth house, and being told that th_oung ladies were engaged.
"Now let us go home, and never mind Aunt March today. We can run down ther_ny time, and it's really a pity to trail through the dust in our best bib_nd tuckers, when we are tired and cross."
"Speak for yourself, if you please. Aunt March likes to have us pay her th_ompliment of coming in style, and making a formal call. It's a little thin_o do, but it gives her pleasure, and I don't believe it will hurt your thing_alf so much as letting dirty dogs and clumping boys spoil them. Stoop down, and let me take the crumbs off of your bonnet."
"What a good girl you are, Amy!" said Jo, with a repentant glance from her ow_amaged costume to that of her sister, which was fresh and spotless still. "_ish it was as easy for me to do little things to please people as it is fo_ou. I think of them, but it takes too much time to do them, so I wait for _hance to confer a great favor, and let the small ones slip, but they tel_est in the end, I fancy."
Amy smiled and was mollified at once, saying with a maternal air, "Wome_hould learn to be agreeable, particularly poor ones, for they have no othe_ay of repaying the kindnesses they receive. If you'd remember that, an_ractice it, you'd be better liked than I am, because there is more of you."
"I'm a crotchety old thing, and always shall be, but I'm willing to own tha_ou are right, only it's easier for me to risk my life for a person than to b_leasant to him when I don't feel like it. It's a great misfortune to hav_uch strong likes and dislikes, isn't it?"
"It's a greater not to be able to hide them. I don't mind saying that I don'_pprove of Tudor any more than you do, but I'm not called upon to tell him so.
Neither are you, and there is no use in making yourself disagreeable becaus_e is."
"But I think girls ought to show when they disapprove of young men, and ho_an they do it except by their manners? Preaching does not do any good, as _now to my sorrow, since I've had Teddie to manage. But there are many littl_ays in which I can influence him without a word, and I say we ought to do i_o others if we can."
"Teddy is a remarkable boy, and can't be taken as a sample of other boys,"
said Amy, in a tone of solemn conviction, which would have convulsed the
'remarkable boy' if he had heard it. "If we were belles, or women of wealt_nd position, we might do something, perhaps, but for us to frown at one se_f young gentlemen because we don't approve of them, and smile upon anothe_et because we do, wouldn't have a particle of effect, and we should only b_onsidered odd and puritanical."
"So we are to countenance things and people which we detest, merely because w_re not belles and millionaires, are we? That's a nice sort of morality."
"I can't argue about it, I only know that it's the way of the world, an_eople who set themselves against it only get laughed at for their pains. _on't like reformers, and I hope you never try to be one."
"I do like them, and I shall be one if I can, for in spite of the laughing th_orld would never get on without them. We can't agree about that, for yo_elong to the old set, and I to the new. You will get on the best, but I shal_ave the liveliest time of it. I should rather enjoy the brickbats an_ooting, I think."
"Well, compose yourself now, and don't worry Aunt with your new ideas."
"I'll try not to, but I'm always possessed to burst out with some particularl_lunt speech or revolutionary sentiment before her. It's my doom, and I can'_elp it."
They found Aunt Carrol with the old lady, both absorbed in some ver_nteresting subject, but they dropped it as the girls came in, with _onscious look which betrayed that they had been talking about their nieces.
Jo was not in a good humor, and the perverse fit returned, but Amy, who ha_irtuously done her duty, kept her temper and pleased everybody, was in a mos_ngelic frame of mind. This amiable spirit was felt at once, and both aunts
'my deared' her affectionately, looking what they afterward said emphatically,
"That child improves every day."
"Are you going to help about the fair, dear?" asked Mrs. Carrol, as Amy sa_own beside her with the confiding air elderly people like so well in th_oung.
"Yes, Aunt. Mrs. Chester asked me if I would, and I offered to tend a table, as I have nothing but my time to give."
"I'm not," put in Jo decidedly. "I hate to be patronized, and the Chester_hink it's a great favor to allow us to help with their highly connected fair.
I wonder you consented, Amy, they only want you to work."
"I am willing to work. It's for the freedmen as well as the Chesters, and _hink it very kind of them to let me share the labor and the fun. Patronag_oes not trouble me when it is well meant."
"Quite right and proper. I like your grateful spirit, my dear. It's a pleasur_o help people who appreciate our efforts. Some do not, and that is trying,"
observed Aunt March, looking over her spectacles at Jo, who sat apart, rockin_erself, with a somewhat morose expression.
If Jo had only known what a great happiness was wavering in the balance fo_ne of them, she would have turned dove-like in a minute, but unfortunately, we don't have windows in our breasts, and cannot see what goes on in the mind_f our friends. Better for us that we cannot as a general thing, but now an_hen it would be such a comfort, such a saving of time and temper. By her nex_peech, Jo deprived herself of several years of pleasure, and received _imely lesson in the art of holding her tongue.
"I don't like favors, they oppress and make me feel like a slave. I'd rathe_o everything for myself, and be perfectly independent."
"Ahem!" coughed Aunt Carrol softly, with a look at Aunt March.
"I told you so," said Aunt March, with a decided nod to Aunt Carrol.
Mercifully unconscious of what she had done, Jo sat with her nose in the air, and a revolutionary aspect which was anything but inviting.
"Do you speak French, dear?" asked Mrs. Carrol, laying a hand on Amy's.
"Pretty well, thanks to Aunt March, who lets Esther talk to me as often as _ike," replied Amy, with a grateful look, which caused the old lady to smil_ffably.
"How are you about languages?" asked Mrs. Carrol of Jo.
"Don't know a word. I'm very stupid about studying anything, can't bea_rench, it's such a slippery, silly sort of language," was the brusque reply.
Another look passed between the ladies, and Aunt March said to Amy, "You ar_uite strong and well now, dear, I believe? Eyes don't trouble you any more, do they?"
"Not at all, thank you, ma'am. I'm very well, and mean to do great things nex_inter, so that I may be ready for Rome, whenever that joyful time arrives."
"Good girl! You deserve to go, and I'm sure you will some day," said Aun_arch, with an approving pat on the head, as Amy picked up her ball for her.
> Crosspatch, draw the latch, > Sit by the fire and spin,
squalled Polly, bending down from his perch on the back of her chair to pee_nto Jo's face, with such a comical air of impertinent inquiry that it wa_mpossible to help laughing.
"Most observing bird," said the old lady.
"Come and take a walk, my dear?" cried Polly, hopping toward the china closet, with a look suggestive of a lump of sugar.
"Thank you, I will. Come Amy." and Jo brought the visit to an end, feelin_ore strongly than ever that calls did have a bad effect upon he_onstitution. She shook hands in a gentlemanly manner, but Amy kissed both th_unts, and the girls departed, leaving behind them the impression of shado_nd sunshine, which impression caused Aunt March to say, as they vanished…
"You'd better do it, Mary. I'll supply the money." and Aunt Carrol to repl_ecidedly, "I certainly will, if her father and mother consent."