Mrs. Chester's fair was so very elegant and select that it was considered a great honor by
the young ladies of the neighborhood to be invited to take a table, and everyone was
much interest in the matter. Amy was asked, but Jo was not, which was fortunate for all
parties, as her elbows were decidedly akimbo at this period of her life, and it took a good
many hard knocks to teach her how to get on easily. The `haughty, uninteresting creature'
was let severely alone, but Amy's talent and taste were duly complimented by the offer of
the art table, and she exerted herself to prepare and secure appropriate and valuable
contributions to it.
Everything went on smoothly till the day before the fair opened, then there occurred one
of the little skirmishes which it is almost impossible to avoid, when some five-and-twenty
women, old and young, with all their private piques and prejudices, try to work together.
May Chester was rather jealous of Amy because the latter was a greater favorite than
herself, and just at this time several trifling circumstances occurred to increase the
feeling. Amy's dainty pen-and-ink work entirely eclipsed May's painted vases--that was
one thorn. Then the all conquering Tudor had danced four times with Amy at a late party
and only once with May--that was thorn number two. But the chief grievance that rankled
in her soul, and gave an excuse for her unfriendly conduct, was a rumor which some
obliging gossip had whispered to her, that the March girls had made fun of her at the
Lambs'. All the blame of this should have fallen upon Jo, for her naughty imitation had
been too lifelike to escape detection, and the frolicsome Lambs had permitted the joke to
escape. No hint of this had reached the culprits, however, and Amy's dismay can be
imagined, when, the very evening before the fair, as she was putting the last touches to
her pretty table, Mrs. Chester, who, of course, resented the supposed ridicule of her
daughter, said, in a bland tone, but with a cold look...
"I find, dear, that there is some feeling among the young ladies about my giving this table
to anyone but my girls. As this is the most prominent, and some say the most attractive
table of all, and they are the chief getters-up of the fair, it is thought best for them to take
this place. I'm sorry, but I know you are too sincerely interested in the cause to mind a
little personal disappointment, and you shall have another table if you like."
Mrs. Chester fancied beforehand that it would be easy to deliver this little speech, but
when the time came, she found it rather difficult to utter it naturally, with Amy's
unsuspicious eyes looking straight at her full of surprise and trouble.
"Amy felt that there was something behind this, but would not guess what, and said
quietly, feeling hurt, and showing that she did, "Perhaps you had rather I took no table at
"Now, my dear, don't have any ill feeling, I beg. It's merely a matter of expediency, you
see, my girls will naturally take the lead, and this table is considered their proper place. I
think it very appropriate to you, and feel very grateful for your efforts to make it so
pretty, but we must give up our private wishes, of course, and I will see that you have a
good place elsewhere. Wouldn't you like the flower table? The little girls undertook it,
but they are discouraged. You could make a charming thing of it, and the flower table is
always attractive you know."