Meg smiled and relented, and whispered as they stood waiting to catch the time, “Take care my skirt doesn’t trip you up. It’s the plague of my life and I was a goose to wear it.”
“Pin it round your neck, and then it will be useful,” said Laurie, looking down at the little blue boots, which he evidently approved of.
Away they went fleetly and gracefully, for having practiced at home, they were well matched, and the blithe young couple were a pleasant sight to see, as they twirled merrily round and round, feeling more friendly than ever after their small tiff.
“Laurie, I want you to do me a favor, will you?” said Meg, as he stood fanning her when her breath gave out, which it did very soon though she would not own why.
“Won’t I!” said Laurie, with alacrity.
“Please don’t tell them at home about my dress tonight. They won’t understand the joke, and it will worry Mother.”
“Then why did you do it?” said Laurie’s eyes, so plainly that Meg hastily added…
“I shall tell them myself all about it, and ‘fess’ to Mother how silly I’ve been. But I’d rather do it myself. So you’ll not tell, will you?”
“I give you my word I won’t, only what shall I say when they ask me?”
“Just say I looked pretty well and was having a good time.”
“I’ll say the first with all my heart, but how about the other? You don’t look as if you were having a good time. Are you?” And Laurie looked at her with an expression which made her answer in a whisper…
“No, not just now. Don’t think I’m horrid. I only wanted a little fun, but this sort doesn’t pay, I find, and I’m getting tired of it.”
“Here comes Ned Moffat. What does he want?” said Laurie, knitting his black brows as if he did not regard his young host in the light of a pleasant addition to the party.
“He put his name down for three dances, and I suppose he’s coming for them. What a bore!” said Meg, assuming a languid air which amused Laurie immensely.
He did not speak to her again till suppertime, when he saw her drinking champagne with Ned and his friend Fisher, who were behaving ‘like a pair of fools’, as Laurie said to himself, for he felt a brotherly sort of right to watch over the Marches and fight their battles whenever a defender was needed.
“You’ll have a splitting headache tomorrow, if you drink much of that. I wouldn’t, Meg, your mother doesn’t like it, you know,” he whispered, leaning over her chair, as Ned turned to refill her glass and Fisher stooped to pick up her fan.
“I’m not Meg tonight, I’m ‘a doll’ who does all sorts of crazy things. Tomorrow I shall put away my ‘fuss and feathers’ and be desperately good again,” she answered with an affected little laugh.
“Wish tomorrow was here, then,” muttered Laurie, walking off, ill-pleased at the change he saw in her.
Meg danced and flirted, chattered and giggled, as the other girls did. After supper she undertook the German, and blundered through it, nearly upsetting her partner with her long skirt, and romping in a way that scandalized Laurie, who looked on and meditated a lecture. But he got no chance to deliver it, for Meg kept away from him till he came to say good night.
“Remember!” she said, trying to smile, for the splitting headache had already begun.