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The narrator explains what the "lions" are that keep the March family from entering the "Palace Beautiful" – that is, the Laurences' magnificent home. One "lion" is old Mr. Laurence, who is very intimidating. The other "lion" is the economic gap between the two families.
Laurie starts hanging out with the March girls a lot. He becomes much livelier and happier and starts neglecting his studies. Old Mr. Laurence tells the tutor, Mr. Brooke, to cut Laurie some slack so that he can spend time with his friends.
Gradually, each of the March girls overcomes her nervousness in relation to the Laurences, except for Beth, who is terrified by old Mr. Laurence.
One day, Mr. Laurence comes over to the March household. He doesn't talk to Beth directly, but he's careful to let her overhear him describing his piano. He says that it is becoming out-of-tune because nobody ever plays on it. With Beth listening, he tells Mrs. March that he would be grateful if one of the girls came over to play it sometimes, and that the house would be almost deserted, so they wouldn't have to talk to anyone.
Beth is so overjoyed at the idea that she could play the piano without having to confront Mr. Laurence that she can hardly sleep. The next morning, she hurries over to the Laurence house as soon as she's done with her chores.
Beth stays at the Laurences' house all day playing the piano. Even after Hannah goes and brings her back for dinner, she's too excited to eat anything.
After that, Beth goes over to the Laurences nearly every day to play the piano. She's spellbound by it – her family's piano is in terrible shape, so this is pretty much the only time she gets to hear her own music the way it ought to sound.
One day, Beth decides that she should make a thank-you gift for old Mr. Laurence. She embroiders him a pair of slippers and gives them to him by leaving them in his study.
In return for the slippers, Mr. Laurence sends Beth a note of thanks – and a small piano of her own! Jo thinks that the piano must have belonged to Mr. Laurence's granddaughter, who died as a child, and he has kept it ever since.
Beth realizes that she must thank Mr. Laurence in person for this generous gift. Before her bashfulness can stop her, she goes next door and walks right into his study. Beth's mothers and sisters are amazed by her boldness.
Mr. Laurence is touched by Beth's thanks and feels like he has gained a replacement for the granddaughter he lost.