Little Women HTML version

Castles in the Air
Laurie lay luxuriously swinging to and fro in his hammock one warm September
afternoon, wondering what his neighbors were about, but too lazy to go and find out. He
was in one of his moods, for the day had been both unprofitable and unsatisfactory, and
he was wishing he could live it over again. The hot weather made him indolent, and he
had shirked his studies, tried Mr. Brooke's patience to the utmost, displeased his
grandfather by practicing half the afternoon, frightened the maidservants half out of their
wits by mischievously hinting that one of his dogs was going mad, and, after high words
with the stableman about some fancied neglect of his horse, he had flung himself into his
hammock to fume over the stupidity of the world in general, till the peace of the lovely
day quieted him in spite of himself. Staring up into the green gloom of the horse-chestnut
trees above him, he dreamed dreams of all sorts, and was just imagining himself tossing
on the ocean in a voyage round the world, when the sound of voices brought him ashore
in a flash. Peeping through the meshes of the hammock, he saw the Marches coming out,
as if bound on some expedition.
"What in the world are those girls about now?" thought Laurie, opening his sleepy eyes to
take a good look, for there was something rather peculiar in the appearance of his
neighbors. Each wore a large, flapping hat, a brown linen pouch slung over one shoulder,
and carried a long staff. Meg had a cushion, Jo a book, Beth a basket, and Amy a
portfolio. All walked quietly through the garden, out at the little back gate, and began to
climb the hill that lay between the house and river.
"Well, that's cool," said Laurie to himself, "to have a picnic and never ask me! They can't
be going in the boat, for they haven't got the key. Perhaps they forgot it. I'll take it to
them, and see what's going on."
Though possessed of half a dozen hats, it took him some time to find one, then there was
a hunt for the key, which was at last discovered in his pocket, so that the girls were quite
out of sight when leaped the fence and ran after them. Taking the shortest way to the
boathouse, he waited for them to appear, but no one came, and he went up the hill to take
an observation. A grove of pines covered one part of it, and from the heart of this green
spot came a clearer sound than the soft sigh of the pines or the drowsy chirp of the
"Here's a landscape!" thought Laurie, peeping through the bushes, and looking wide-
awake and good-natured already.
It was a rather pretty little picture, for the sisters sat together in the shady nook, with sun
and shadow flickering over them, the aromatic wind lifting their hair and cooling their
hot cheeks, and all the little wood people going on with their affairs as if these were no
strangers but old friends. Meg sat upon her cushion, sewing daintily with her white
hands, and looking as fresh and sweet as a rose in her pink dress among the green. Beth
was sorting the cones that lay thick under the hemlock near by, for she made pretty things
with them. Amy was sketching a group of ferns, and Jo was knitting as she read aloud. A
shadow passed over the boy's face as he watched them, feeling that he ought to go away
because uninvited, yet lingering because home seemed very lonely and this quiet party in
the woods most attractive to his restless spirit. He stood so still that a squirrel, busy with
it's harvesting, ran dawn a pine close beside him, saw him suddenly and skipped back,
scolding so shrilly that Beth looked up, espied the wistful face behind the birches, and
beckoned with a reassuring smile.