Our latest writing assignment for my online writing class on The Habit Community was to write a page from the journal of a minor character in a famous book. It was such an interesting assignment; people did all sorts of great things from Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, L.M. Montgomery, Suzanne Collins, the tale of Beowolf and more.
My husband had the idea for my piece, told from the perspective of the rich old neighbour next door in Little Women, which is one of my very favourite books. It felt like treading on sacred ground, trying to slip into the writing shoes of Louisa May Alcott…I really hope you enjoy it!
Mr. Lawrence Ruminates by his Window
Every evening for months, I have heard their voices lifting in song—the four neighbour girls singing with their mother around an old piano. At first, I would shut my windows to block out the sound of their happiness, for its lively youthfulness unearthed memories of my own dear granddaughter, now so silent and still.
I tried to make myself believe that I was simply annoyed at their disturbing an old man’s rest, but it was not irritation at all: it was fear of the sorrow their joy was unleashing in my locked heart, until I could contain it no longer.
Eventually, I began opening my window. I now watch for their work-weary mother to come home through the gate, carrying her baskets and bundles. Her daughters greet her with joy, calling “Marmee!” through the open door.
After an hour or so, I bring my pipe and sit by the window pensively, as if pondering some profound problems, while the smoke wafts into the night air, but I am simply waiting to listen to them sing.
Sometimes, their warbling songs are delightful; other times their girlish voices and soft piano tunes are accompanied by my silent tears, the ones I could not shed when my own little grandchild died. How she had loved music!! Her untouched piano haunts me.
However, anger is a lonely refuge. It sustains me no longer, though I try to hide it from my foolish nephew, Lawrence, lest he think I have grown old and soft.
Perhaps I have. I long to do something for them now that their father is away at war. They must feel it deeply, though they carry their burden cheerfully. That lanky one even leaps over the fence at times; I have to restrain my laughter when I see it through the window. Oh, to have her spring in my step!
But what could a lonely old man do to increase their happiness? Their mother seems too proud to accept money; she bears herself so nobly, and I believe their family was wealthy before her husband’s business was ruined.
If only I could be there with them in that cozy little front room, with the light streaming through the window into the dusk, along with their dear voices…then I could hear the soft tunes of their old piano better.
That is it—a new piano! My granddaughter’s favourite instrument shall be silent no longer.