Little Women HTML version

Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful
The big house did prove a Palace Beautiful, though it took some time for all to get in, and
Beth found it very hard to pass the lions. Old Mr. Laurence was the biggest one, but after
he had called, said something funny or kind to each one of the girls, and talked over old
times with their mother, nobody felt much afraid of him, except timid Beth. The other
lion was the fact that they were poor and Laurie rich, for this made them shy of accepting
favors which they could not return. But, after a while, they found that he considered them
the benefactors, and could not do enough to show how grateful he was for Mrs. March's
motherly welcome, their cheerful society, and the comfort he took in that humble home
of theirs. So they soon forgot their pride and interchanged kindnesses without stopping to
think which was the greater.
All sorts of pleasant things happened about that time, for the new friendship flourished
like grass in spring. Every one liked Laurie, and he privately informed his tutor that "the
Marches were regularly splendid girls." With the delightful enthusiasm of youth, they
took the solitary boy into their midst and made much of him, and he found something
very charming in the innocent companionship of these simple-hearted girls. Never having
known mother or sisters, he was quick to feel the influences they brought about him, and
their busy, lively ways made him ashamed of the indolent life he led. He was tired of
books, and found people so interesting now that Mr. Brooke was obliged to make very
unsatisfactory reports, for Laurie was always playing truant and running over to the
"Never mind, let him take a holiday, and make it up afterward," said the old gentleman.
"The good lady next door says he is studying too hard and needs young society,
amusement, and exercise. I suspect she is right, and that I've been coddling the fellow as
if I'd been his grandmother. Let him do what he likes, as long as he is happy. He can't get
into mischief in that little nunnery over there, and Mrs. March is doing more for him than
we can."
What good times they had, to be sure. Such plays and tableaux, such sleigh rides and
skating frolics, such pleasant evenings in the old parlor, and now and then such gay little
parties at the great house. Meg could walk in the conservatory whenever she liked and
revel in bouquets, Jo browsed over the new library voraciously, and convulsed the old
gentleman with her criticisms, Amy copied pictures and enjoyed beauty to her heart's
content, and Laurie played `lord of the manor' in the most delightful style.
But Beth, though yearning for the grand piano, could not pluck up courage to go to the
`Mansion of Bliss', as Meg called it. She went once with Jo, but the old gentleman, not
being aware of her infirmity, stared at her so hard from under his heavy eyebrows, and
said "Hey!" so loud, that he frightened her so much her `feet chattered on the floor', she
never told her mother, and she ran away, declaring she would never go there any more,
not even for the dear piano. No persuasions or enticements could overcome her fear, till,
the fact coming to Mr. Laurence's ear in some mysterious way, he set about mending
matters. During one of the brief calls he made, he artfully led the conversation to music,
and talked away about great singers whom he had seen, fine organs he had heard, and
told such charming anecdotes that Beth found it impossible to stay in her distant corner,
but crept nearer and nearer, as if fascinated. At the back of his chair she stopped and
stood listening, with her great eyes wide open and her cheeks red with excitement of this