On New Year's Eve the parlour was deserted, for the two younger girls played dressing-maids, and the two older 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 burnt 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.
`Ought they to smoke like that?' asked Beth, from her perch on the bed.
`It's the dampness drying,' replied Jo.
`What a queer smell! it's like burnt feathers,' observed Amy, smoothing her own pretty curls with a superior air.
`There, now I'll take off the papers and you'll see a cloud of little ringlets,' said Jo, putting down the tongs.
She did take off the papers, but no cloud of ringlets appeared, for the hair came with the papers, and the horrified hairdresser laid a row of little scorched bundles on the bureau before her victim.
`Oh, oh, oh! what have you done? I'm spoilt! I can't go! My hair, oh, my hair!' wailed Meg, looking with despair at the uneven frizzle on her forehead.
`Just my luck; you shouldn't 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.
`It isn't spoilt: just frizzle it, and tie your ribbon so the ends come on your forehead a bit, and it will look like the last fashion. I've seen many girls do it so,' said Amy, consolingly.
`Serves me right for trying to be fine. I wish I'd let my hair alone,' cried Meg, petulantly.
`So do I, it was so smooth and pretty. But it will soon grow out again,' said Beth, coming to kiss and comfort the shorn sheep.
After various lesser mishaps, Meg was finished at last, and by the united exeons of the family, Jo's 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 the one nice light glove, and carried one soiled one, and all pronounced the effect `quite easy and fine'. Meg's high-heeled slippers were very tight, and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo's nineteen hairpins 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. `Don't 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:
`Girls, girls! have you both got nice pocket-handkerchiefs?'
`Yes, yes, spandy nice, and Meg has cologne on hers,' cried Jo, adding with a laugh, as they we nt on, `I do believe Marmee would ask that if we were all running away - from an earthquake.'
`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 don't 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. Gardiner's dressing room, after a prolonged prink.
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