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Chapter 5: Being Neighborly
Jo visits Laurie one snowy afternoon when she has nothing else to do and Laurie is shut up in his house with a cold. The two teens spend a while getting acquainted. Laurie reveals that he knows quite a bit about the sisters including their names as he often watches them through his windows. Laurie describes his grandfather as kind and generous even though he doesn’t look it. He takes Jo on a tour of the house ending in the library where she is enchanted by all the books. Laurie’s opinion is that one can’t live on books. His doctor calls, so Laurie leaves Jo in the library to wait his return.
While waiting for Laurie, Jo examines the picture of his grandfather that is hanging on the wall. She talks aloud to herself, saying that she doesn’t think she would be afraid of him even though he looks strong willed, for he has kind eyes. She decides that she likes him although he isn’t as handsome as her own grandfather.
Unknown to Jo, Mr. Laurence has come into the house and is standing in the doorway to the library when Jo makes her comments. He tells her that he knew and was a friend to her grandfather, and inquires as to her intentions in visiting his grandson. She explains that she was just being neighborly as Laurie seemed lonely. Mr. Laurence is surprised at her effect on Laurie and asks her to stay for tea. After tea, the two explore more of the house whereupon Jo finds a gand piano. Laurie plays a bit for her, which seems to displease his grandfather.
When Jo returns home, her mother explains that Mr. Laurence’s objection to Laurie’s music is related to an old disagreement between Mr. Laurence and his son, Laurie’s father. That man had married an Italian musician whom Mr. Laurence did not like. He never saw his son again after they were married, and he fears losing Laurie if he should learn to like music too well.
After Jo’s descriptions, Marmee decides that it would be okay to pursue a friendship with the Laurence’s. Beth suggests, upon recalling their Pilgrim’s Progress play-acting, that perhaps the big house with all of its beautiful things will be a Palace Beautiful for them.
Mr. Laurence is more fully characterized; in many way he fits the stereotype of any outwardly gruff but inwardly gentle and loving grandfather. He is certainly much more tolerant of Laurie than the girls’ earlier impressions of a lonely boy looking out the windows of the austere mansion had led them to believe. He is not opposed to music, but is simply afraid that he will lose his grandson to it in the same way that he lost his son. This chapter sets the stage for the March and Laurence families to fill the gaps in each others lives.