Read an Excerpt
"Oh, I can't wait for our Christmas party!" Amy March exclaimed, running ahead of her sisters down the lane. "Two weeks seems so very long!"
"You won't make it come any sooner by running to meet it," Jo March called after her with a laugh.
The three March sisters headed after Amy, their laughter ringing in the cold, clear December air.
"I think it so sweet of Marmee to give us money for new hair ribbons," sixteen -year- old Meg said. "At least I shall feel that I have something new to wear to the party. I'm planning on buying burgundy satin to go with my taffeta gown. What are you planning to choose, Jo?"
"Haven't thought about it," was the brusque reply, for Jo considered the function of clothes to be practical, not pretty and fashionable. "I'm not going to waste my portion on ribbons. A nice chenille net in a good strong burgundy color will suit me, and keep my hair tidy and bundled out of my way. And you, my Bethy?"
Jo turned to her thirteen -year-old sister, Beth, and her expression softened. Beth was two years younger than Jo, and was her sister's special pet, even though she was her opposite in temperament.
" I suppose I'll choose a pretty blue ribbon to match my gown," Beth said. "But I wish I didn't have to go to the party at all. All those people I shall have to greet and to speak with-I'm sure I'll say something foolish, or drop a punch glass."
"No, you won't at all, dearie," Jo said cheerfully. "You'll be modest and sweet, as you always are. Everyone will be charmed. Besides, the house won't be full of strangers, but friends and neighbors. Though I suppose you'd rather reduce our beautiful cakes tocrumbs to feed to the birds on your windowsill," Jo teased.
Beth laughed. "Yes, I do believe I would," she answered, in the same spirit. "And my kittens might like the eggnog. But I'd save one gingersnap for my Jo."
Jo laughed, her fancy tickled by the thought of their fine party food as feed for the cats and birds of the neighborhood.
"Marmee thinks that a caroling party is the perfect way to return all the kindnesses we've received over the past year," Meg said. "Don't you want to give friends a treat and make them feel appreciated?"
"Oh yes, Meg! It is ungrateful of me to complain," Beth said with a sigh.
"Bless your heart, I didn't mean it that way," Meg said, slipping her arm through her sister's. "You're not ungrateful, Beth, just shy. But think of how merry it shall be to have the house full of laughter and good cheer. It shall be like the old days." Meg ended wistfully, for she recalled the days when the March family fortune was still substantial enough to host their neighbors in Concord without worrying about the cost.
"I think it's more fun to give a party and use all our clever March tricks to dress the place up without it costing much," Jo said. "We'll fill the rooms with evergreen branches and vines, make a good punch, and bake like mad the week before. I'm sure folks shall have a better time in our sweet, simple home than sitting on a slippery upholstered chair, crooking their fingers over their porcelain teacups and nibbling on a tiny French pastry."
Jo mimicked a finicky person trying to nibble while keeping one pinky bent in an elegant fashion, and her three sisters burst out laughing.
But Meg quieted a moment later. "I just wish Father could be there," she said sadly.
All the girls nodded. Mr. March had volunteered to act as chaplain to soldiers fighting the war. Stationed in Washington, D.C., he was far from Concord, Massachusetts. His family was proud of his sacrifice, but they missed him dreadfully.
"Well, I will write to Father all about it, for Marmee told me that I can help her decide on the decorations," Amy said with an important air. Eleven-year-old Amy was the artistic one in the family, and she loved to dream up elegant schemes to dress up their home. I was hoping that Laurie could bring only white flowers from his conservatory, and I could mix them with green vines and silver ribbons for the centerpieces. But Marmee says that the flowers are a gift, and it wouldn't be polite to tell Laurie what he should choose."
'Very right," Jo approved. "it doesn't seem proper to direct a kindness. And knowing Teddy, if he didn't have enough white flowers, he'd tramp about for miles and miles to find them, just to please you."
"Would he, really?" Amy asked with a sigh, for she had a romantic nature. 'That's so heroic of him!"
"Don't be such a goose," Jo said good-naturedly. "He's not a hero, just a generous boy. Though sometimes an ill-tempered boy if he has to wait for his tea."
Laurie was their neighbor, Theodore Laurence, who lived with his grandfather in the stately mansion next door. Closest to Jo in age, he was her special chum, and she was the only one to call him 'Teddy."
"Still, I'm sure there will be some white flowers, and if I buy a bit of silver ribbon-or perhaps red will do-I shall make a lovely display," Amy continued. "If only we could get a basket of oranges! I would pile them up in a great pir-a-mide, like an Egyptian spinck!"
"That's pyramid," Jo said, laughing at Amy's pronunciation. "And the sphinx is quite a different shape, you know."