Laurie lay luxuriously swinging to and fro in his hammock
one warm September afternoon, wondering what his neighbors were
about, but too lazy to go and find out. He was in one of his
moods, for the day had been both unprofitable and unsatisfactory,
and he was wishing he could live it over again. The hot weather
made him indolent, and he had shirked his studies, tried Mr.Brooke's patience to the utmost, displeased his grandfather by
practicing half the afternoon, frightened the maidservants half
out of their wits by mischievously hinting that one of his dogs
was going mad, and, after high words with the stableman about
some fancied neglect of his horse, he had flung himself into
his hammock to fume over the stupidity of the world in general,
till thepeace of the lovely day quieted him in spite of himself.
Staring up into the green gloom of the horse-chestnut trees above
him, he dreamed dreams of all sorts, and was just imagining
himself tossing on the ocean in a voyage round the world,
when the sound of voices brought him ashore in a flash.
Peeping through the meshes of the hammock, he saw the Marches
coming out, as if bound on someexpedition.
"What in the world are those girls about now?" thought
Laurie, opening his sleepy eyes to take a good look, for there
was something rather peculiar in the appearance of his
neighbors. Each wore a large, flapping hat, a brown linen pouch
slung over one shoulder, and carried a long staff. Meg had a
cushion, Jo a book, Beth a basket, and Amy a portfolio. All
walked quietly through thegarden, out at the little back gate,
and began to climb the hill that lay between the house and river.
"Well, that's cool," said Laurie to himself, "to have a picnic
and never ask me! They can't be going in the boat, for they
haven't got the key. Perhaps they forgot it. I'll take it to them,
and see what's going on."
Though possessed of half a dozen hats, it took him some time
to find one,then there was a hunt for the key, which was at last
discovered in his pocket, so that the girls were quite out of sight
when leaped the fence and ran after them. Taking the shortest way
to the boathouse, he waited for them to appear, but no one came,
and he went up the hill to take an observation. A grove of pines
covered one part of it, and from the heart of this green spot came
a clearersound than the soft sigh of the pines or the drowsy chirp
of the crickets.
"Here's a landscape!" thought Laurie, peeping through the
bushes, and looking wide-awake and good-natured already.
It was a rather pretty little picture, for the sisters sat
together in the shady nook, with sun and shadow flickering over
them, the aromatic wind lifting their hair and cooling their hot
cheeks, and allthe little wood people going on with their affairs
as if these were no strangers but old friends. Meg sat upon her
cushion, sewing daintily with her white hands, and looking as fresh
and sweet as a rose in her pink dress among the green. Beth was
sorting the cones that lay thick under the hemlock near by, for
she made pretty things with them. Amy was sketching a group of
ferns, and Jo wasknitting as she read aloud. A shadow passed
over the boy's face as he watched them, feeling that he ought to
go away because uninvited, yet lingering because home seemed very
lonely and this quiet party in the woods most attractive to his
restless spirit. He stood so still that a squirrel, busy with it's
harvesting, ran dawn a pine close beside him, saw him suddenly
and skipped back, scoldingso shrilly that Beth looked up, espied
the wistful face behind the birches, and beckoned with a reassuring
"May I come in, please? Or shall I be a bother?" he asked,
Meg lifted her eyebrows, but Jo scowled at her defiantly and
said at once, "Of course you may. We should have asked you before,
only we thought you wouldn't care for such a girl's game as this."...