Chapter 3 Summary
A few days later, Meg runs excitedly into the attic, where Jo is reading a novel and eating apples. Meg announces that the two of them have been invited to a New Year’s Eve dance and that Marmee does not mind if they go. “What shall we wear?” she asks. The practical Jo is perplexed by this pointless question; she points out that they each only have one nice dress.
In spite of this, the girls spend hours preparing for the party. Jo attempts to curl Meg’s hair with hot irons. Unfortunately, she ends up burning a curl off of Meg’s head. Amy comes to the rescue, disguising the burned hair as if it were purposely styled that way. Afterward, she and Beth work to make the tomboyish Jo look as nice and neat as possible, considering that her clothes are worn and stained.
The party goes quite well for Meg, but Jo feels “as out of place as a colt in a flower garden.” She has a burn on the back of her dress, so she stands with her back to the wall as much as she can. After lurking awkwardly for an hour or so, she decides to slip behind a curtain and watch the party from a place where she cannot be seen.
As it turns out, Jo is not the only partygoer who has this idea. The “Laurence boy” is hiding behind the curtain, too. She learns that his name is Theodore but he goes by Laurie. They strike up a conversation and Jo soon finds out that he is shy but friendly, just as she thought. When he finds out about the burn on her dress, he takes her to an empty room to dance where nobody can see.
Meg, whose shoes are too small for her growing feet, sprains her ankle dancing. When Jo tries to help her by bringing her a coffee, she spills it everywhere. Laurie helps then and graciously brings Meg everything she needs. The three of them spend the rest of the party sitting and enjoying themselves. When it is time to leave, Laurie drives them home in his carriage.
Back at home, the two younger girls leap out of bed and demand to hear about the party. The older girls each tell the stories of what they did and saw. During this conversation, Jo wraps Meg’s sprained foot, and Meg says she feels like “a fine young lady.” Jo says that the two of them probably have as much fun as “fine young ladies” do, even though she has to wear stained old clothes and Meg has to wear tight shoes that make her sprain her foot.