Chapter 6 Summary

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The friendship between Laurie and the girls grows “like grass in spring.” Old Mr. Laurence was previously very strict and forced Laurie to study a great deal. But the new friendship makes Laurie extremely happy, and the old man realizes that his grandson needs a social life as well as an academic one. He tells Laurie’s teacher, Mr. Brooke, to let the boy have a little vacation.

One by one, each of the March girls visits the Laurence mansion and sees the beautiful things there—all except Beth. She is so shy that she has trouble leaving home under any circumstances but especially to enter the home of a curmudgeonly old man like Mr. Laurence. Mr. Laurence does not know about Beth’s timidity. The one time she gathers the courage to enter his home, he stares at her and shouts “Hey!” This scares her so much that she runs away and refuses to return.

After a while, Mr. Laurence realizes the mistake he has made, and he decides to fix it. Somebody tells him that Beth likes music, so he visits Marmee. In front of Beth, he tells Marmee all about his grand piano. He says that it does not get enough use and that the girls are welcome to come and play it whenever they like. He makes a point of adding that the girls may come and go without speaking to anyone, if they so prefer. Shy little Beth is overcome with happiness as she hears this.

Soon Beth develops the habit of going to the Laurence house to play the beautiful piano nearly every day. This pleases the Laurences greatly, but she does not know it. She has no idea that they make great efforts to make her feel comfortable. They make sure the servants stay away so she will not be frightened, and they leave out music and exercise books for her special use.

Mr. Laurence has given Beth the one thing she wished for most. A few weeks later, she tells Marmee that she wants to make him a gift to thank him. She sews a new pair of slippers; then with Laurie’s help, she sneaks them into the old man’s study. Time passes and she hears no reply. She begins to worry that Mr. Laurence does not like the present.

Then one day, when Beth returns home from an errand, she finds Marmee and her sisters waiting for her in great excitement. Mr. Laurence has sent her a little piano that used to belong to his granddaughter, who died very young. In a note, he explains that he loved his little granddaughter dearly and that Beth reminds him of her.

As everyone admires the new piano, Jo says that Beth should run over to the Laurence house and say thank you. Jo means this as a joke because she assumes that Beth is too shy to do it. But Beth shocks the whole family by dashing next door and marching into Mr. Laurence’s study. There she climbs into the old man’s lap and kisses him on the cheek. He is stunned but pleased, and from then on he and Beth are fast friends.

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