`I know I shall forget. If you see me doing anything wrong just remind me by a wink, will you?' returned Jo, giving her collar a twitch and her hair a hasty brush.
`No, winking isn't lady-like; I'll lift my eyebrows if anything is wrong, and nod if you are all right. Now hold your shoulders straight and take short steps, and don't shake hands if you are introduced to anyone: it isn't the thing.'
`How do you learn all the proper ways? I never can. Isn't that music gay?'
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 didn't 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'.
`Dear me, I didn't know anyone was here!' stammered Jo, preparing to back out as speedily as she had bounced in.
But the boy laughed, and said pleasantly, though he looked a little startled:
`Don't mind me; stay if you like.'
`Shan't I disturb you?'
`Not a bit; I only came here because I don't know many people, and I felt rather strange at first, you know.'
`So did I. Don't go away, please, unless you'd rather.' The boy sat down again and looked at his pumps, till Jo said, trying to be polite and easy:
`I think I've had the pleasure of seeing you before; you live near us, don't you?'
`Next door'; and he looked up and laughed outright, for Jo's prim manner was rather funny, when he remembered how they had chatted about cricket when he brought the cat home.
That put Jo at her ease; and she laughed too, as she said, her heartiest way:
`We did have such a good time over your nice Christmas present.'
`Grandpa sent it.'
`But you put it into his head, didn't you, now?'
`How is your cat, Miss March?' asked the boy, trying to look sober, while his black eyes shone with fun.
`Nicely, thank you, Mr. Laurence; but I am not Miss March, I'm only Jo,' returned the young lady.
`I'm not Mr. Laurence, I'm only Laurie.'
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