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Chapter 6 Calls

  • "Come, Jo, it's time."
  • "For what?"
  • "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'
  • visits."
  • "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."