Chapters 4-6

Adapted for English Language Learners



     The holidays were over and it was time once again to work.  How nice it would be to be like other girls and not have to work! "What's the use of looking nice," said Meg unhappily, "when no one sees me but naughty [bad] children and no one cares if I'm pretty? I will have to work all my life. I will get old and ugly, just because I'm poor!"

     Beth had a headache and lay on the sofa, trying to comfort herself with her cat and three kittens. Amy was complaining because her lessons were not done. And Jo started to whistle [a high sound you make blowing air through your mouth] which made everyone angry. Before anyone could find something else to complain about, Hannah came in and put fresh hot rolls [small, sweet balls of bread] on the table. The girls called them muffs because the hot rolls warmed their hands on cold mornings.

     When Mr. March lost his money trying to help a friend, the two oldest girls asked to be allowed (позволять) to find work to help support the family.

     Meg found a place as nanny [someone who takes care of children]. The work was hard because the children did not obey. But it was also hard because the family was very rich and it was hard to watch rich people being happy when you were poor and unhappy.  

     Jo worked for Aunt March, who was old and needed a person to help her. The old lady offered to adopt [take as her own daughter] one of the girls when the family's trouble came. She was offended [angry] when the March’s said “No”. The Marches answered, “Rich or poor, we will keep together and be happy together.”

     The old lady wouldn't speak to them for a long time. But then one day she met Jo and something in Jo's funny face and blunt way of talking pleased the old lady, and she took her for a companion. Jo accepted the position since nothing better could be found. The moment Aunt March took her nap [a short rest], Jo hurried off to find a book to read. But, as soon as she reached the best part of a story, a shrill [high] voice would call, “Josy-phine! Josy-phine!” and she had to leave her book to wait on the grumpy [always complaining] old lady.

     Beth was too shy to go to school. She did her lessons at home with father. Even when he went away, Beth went on by herself and did the best she could. There are many Beths in the world. They are shy and quiet, but they live for others. No one sees their sacrifices [their unselfish giving] until their sweet, sunshiny presence is gone from us, leaving silence and emptiness behind.

     If anyone asked Amy what the greatest trial [test] of her life was, she said, "My nose." When she was a baby, Jo accidentally dropped her on the floor! Amy said the fall ruined [spoiled] her nose forever.

     "Does anybody have anything funny to tell? It's been such a sad day," said Meg, as they sat sewing that evening.

     "I have something to tell," said Amy. "Susie Perkins drew a picture of our teacher with a huge nose and bent over back. Then she wrote the words, 'Young ladies, my eye is upon you!' We were laughing over it when all of a sudden he was looking at us. He told Susie to bring her picture to the front of the class. She was frozen with fear, but she went, and oh, what do you think he did? He took her by the ear! Just think of how horrible that was! He made her stand there half an hour, holding the picture so everyone could see it."

     "Didn't the girls laugh at the picture?" asked Jo, who loved the story.

     "Laugh? No! They sat still as mice, and Susie cried buckets [enough to fill up a bucket]. Tomorrow she won't dare come to school."

     Then Jo said, "Tell us a story, Mother. I love your stories!"

     Mrs. March smiled and began: "Once there were four girls, who had plenty to eat, drink and wear. They had kind friends and parents who loved them very much, and yet they were not happy. So they asked an old woman what magic they could use to make them happy, and she said, 'When you feel unhappy, think over your blessings [all the good you have], and be grateful [be thankful].' "

     "That's all?" asked Amy disappointed. "Feeling unhappy is very serious in my opinion! It should be harder to change than just remembering your blessings!"

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"What in the world are you going to do now, Jo?" asked Meg one snowy afternoon, as her sister came running through the hall.

     "I'm going out for exercise," answered Jo.

     "It's cold outside! I advise you to stay warm by the fire, as I do," said Meg acting like their mother.

     "I never take advice!  I'm not a cat who sleeps all day by the fire. I like adventures, and I'm going to find some!"

     Meg sighed and went back to reading. 

     Since the party, Jo had been planning a hundred ways to meet the Laurence boy again. Not long ago she saw his face in an upper window looking down into their garden, where Beth and Amy were having a snow ball fight.

     "That boy needs some fun," said Jo to herself.  And this day was the day to start!  When she saw old Mr. Lawrence drive off, she quickly put her boots and coat on and ran to the house.  She then walked quietly around the house looking in the windows, trying to discover where Laurie was. She finally saw him in a dark room doing his school lessons.  She then made a snowball and threw it at the window.  His head turned at once.  He smiled and ran to open the window and said, "I'm ill. I've been locked in the house all week. It's as dull [boring] as a graveyard [a place where people are buried when they die]."

     "Don't you read?"

     "Not much. They won't let me. They say my head is weak."

     "Can't somebody read to you? There isn't anyone. Boys don't like to read. They just make noise."

     "Isn't there some nice girl who would read to you?"

     "I don't know any."

     "You know us," began Jo, and then laughed and stopped.

     "So I do! Will you come, please?" cried Laurie.

     "I'll come if Mother will let me. I'll go ask her.” Ten minutes later Jo was at the door with a dish of food in one hand and Beth's three kittens in the other. "Here I am, with cookies from mother ... and Beth thought her kittens would cheer you up."

     They then started talking about books. "If you like them so much, come read ours," said Laurie. "If you're afraid of Grandfather, come when he is out."

     "I'm not afraid of anything!" replied Jo.

     Laurie only laughed and started to lead the way from room to room, letting Jo stop and look at everything, until at last they came to the library. It was lined with books. Best of all there was a huge fireplace.

     "What riches!" sighed Jo. "You should be the happiest boy in the world."

     Before he could answer, a bell rang.  Jo jumped up, saying with fear, "Mercy me! It's your grandpa!”

     "Well, what if it is? You said you are not afraid of anything!" replied Laurie laughing.

     "Well, maybe I am a little bit afraid of him," said Jo, keeping her eyes on the door.

     The door opened and there stood Mr. Laurence. Poor Jo. Her heart began to beat very fast. Then, after a dreadful pause, the old man said loudly, "So you're not afraid of me, eh?

     "Not much, sir."

     The answer pleased the old man, though he tried not to laugh. He shook hands with her. "You've got your grandfather's spirit, you do!"

     "Thank you, sir."

     "What have you been doing to this boy of mine, eh?"

     "Only trying to be neighborly [a good neighbor], sir."

     "You think he needs cheering up, do you?"

     "Yes, sir."

     "Well then, you can come over and go on being neighborly."

     "Oh, thank you, sir!”

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Little Women

The Laurences turned out to be friendly neighbors after the girls got over their fear of the old grandfather. Their other fear was the fact that the Marches were poor and the Laurences were rich. This made them reluctant [slow] to accept favors [gifts and acts of kindness] they could not return. But, after a while, the girls forgot their pride [stopped thinking about themselves]. They gave and accepted kindness without stopping to think who was giving more.

     The grandfather became gentler and didn't mind his grandson running away from his lessons to be with the girls if it made him happy.  "Let him do what he likes," said old Mr. Laurence, "as long as he is happy. He can't get into much trouble in that little nunnery [church home just for women] over there."

     Beth was the last of the sisters to get over her fear of Mr. Laurence. But one day he, having heard of her shyness as well as her love of music, asked Mrs. March if one of her girls might help him? His piano sat silent day after day with no one to play it.  Did any of Mrs. March's girls play the piano he asked? (He already knew the answer, of course.)  Beth, forgetting her fear, ran up to him as if she had been a little mouse who was no longer afraid of the house cat.

     "Oh, sir, I love to play!  May I really play your piano?"

     Then to everyone's surprise, the old man smiled and kissed her gently on the top of her head. "Come anytime my dear. No need to knock.  Just come in. I will be very happy if you do." He then turned quickly and left before anyone could see the tears in his eyes.

     The next day Beth started out the door toward Mr. Laurence's large house. Three times she got half way to the house and turned back in fear. But finally, on the fourth try she went in at the side door and made her way silently to the room where the piano stood. Music lay on the piano (which Mr. Laurence himself put there) and, with trembling [shaking] fingers, Beth at last touched the keys and immediately forgot her fear.  She forgot everything else but the joy the music gave her, for it was like the voice of a dear friend.  That night she was so happy she did not even want to eat dinner.

     After that, Beth went to play the piano every day. She never knew that Mr. Laurence opened his study door to hear her. She never saw Laurie wait in the hallway to keep the servants away. She never guessed that the new music books were put on the piano for her. After almost a week of playing daily, Beth asked her mother if she could make Mr. Laurence a pair of slippers to thank him for his kindness. Of course her mother agreed.  Beth worked night and day on them. Finally the day came when she felt she could make them no better. She was too shy to give them to him herself. And so she wrote a little note of gratitude and asked Laurie to put them in the old man's study. One day went by, then another, and then another with no word from the old man. Had she offended [done something wrong to] him? Were the slippers too poor to give him? Beth was so upset she stopped going to play the piano.  But two days later, as she was coming back from doing errands, all her sisters were waiting for her at the gate.

     "Beth, Beth, come quick!" yelled her sisters.

     "Why? What's happened?" she answered as she ran toward them.

     At the door her sisters grabbed her arm and took her into the house. "Look there! Look there!" Beth did look, and turned pale [very white], for there stood a little piano with a letter lying on top. "For me?" said Beth, holding onto Jo's arm, feeling as if she would faint.

     "Yes, it's all for you, dear Beth! Wasn't it wonderful of the old man? Don't you think he's the dearest old man in the world?"

     Beth didn’t know what to think or do, she couldn't even read the letter from Mr. Laurence and so Jo read it for her . . .

     Miss March.

     Dear Madam

     I have had many pairs of slippers in my life, but I never had any that I liked as much as yours. I hope you will allow the old gentleman to send you something that once belonged to the little grand daughter he lost. With heartfelt thanks and best wishes, I remain

      Your grateful friend and humble servant,


     Beth lovingly touched the beautiful black and white keys and cried for joy.  Beth ceased to fear him from that moment, and felt she had gained not only a piano, but a grandfather.

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Chapters 7-9

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