Chapter 5 Summary

One cold winter’s day, Jo spots Laurie at his bedroom window. She throws a snowball at him, and he tells her that he is stuck inside with a cold. He is obviously feeling gloomy, so Jo gets permission from Marmee to go cheer him up. Very soon she marches into his bedroom with a sweet dessert called blancmange, a few of Beth’s kittens, and a head full of stories. As she entertains him with anecdotes about cranky old Aunt March, she tidies up his room and makes him feel more cheerful.

Jo has long wanted to see the Laurence mansion, so Laurie gives her a tour. When he gets called away to see the doctor, he asks her to wait in his grandfather’s library. Jo admires the books and then studies a painting of old Mr. Laurence, whom she and her sisters find intimidating. When she hears the door open, she assumes that Laurie has returned. Without taking her eyes from the picture, she says she will never be afraid of the old man now that she has studied his face so closely. She declares that he has “kind eyes” even if “his mouth is grim.”

When she turns around, she realizes that she has not been speaking to Laurie but to old Mr. Laurence himself. She is terribly embarrassed, but he just laughs. Jo overcomes her initial urge to run away and declares that she meant every word she said. He likes this, and his reaction gives her the courage to say that she thinks Laurie is lonely and needs friends. Mr. Laurence invites her to dinner. As he watches the change Jo makes in his grandson, he realizes that she is right. He resolves to let Laurie spend more time with other young people.

After dinner, Laurie shows Jo his grand piano, and Jo thinks about how much Beth would like to see it. Laurie plays piano well, but he mentions offhand that his grandfather does not like to hear him.

Afterward, Jo goes home and asks her mother why Mr. Laurence would not like to hear his grandson play the piano. Marmee explains that, as a young man, Laurie’s father ran away and married an Italian musician. Old Mr. Laurence did not approve of this, and both his son and his daughter-in-law died before he forgave them. Now the old man is afraid that Laurie will grow up to be like his parents.

To the March family, the Laurence mansion is like a paradise. They all want to go see it, especially Beth, who wonders if she is brave enough to go to the big, strange house and see the grand piano. She comments that the Laurence mansion may be her own Palace Beautiful—the reward at the end of her Pilgrim’s Progress quest.