Meg and Amy soon join Jo in feeling welcome at Mr. Laurence’s house. The girls are initially worried that they can never return his favors, given that he’s rich and they’re poor, but they soon realize that Mr. Laurence feels that they’re doing him a favor by visiting with Laurie.
Laurie clearly benefits from the familial love offered by the Marches. The Marches, in return, benefit from Mr. Laurence’s wealth and – to a certain extent – his fatherly influence.
Beth, however, is terrified of Mr. Laurence, and doesn’t have the courage to go next door to try out Mr. Laurence’s grand piano. Realizing this, Mr. Laurence visits Mrs. March and, within earshot of Beth, tactfully mentions that he wishes someone would drop by and try out the piano in the middle of the day, while everyone in the mansion is away, in order to keep it in tune. Encouraged by this, Beth tells him that she’d like to try the piano out. Mr. Laurence gently reveals that he once had a granddaughter, now deceased, who was much like Beth.
Beth’s timidity is an extension of her simple, pious nature. Because her nature is timid, she tends to be far more humble and modest than the other March girls. She also tends to spend far more time in pious reflection, given that she’s generally housebound. Here, she isn’t just afraid of Mr. Laurence. She’s afraid of his wealth, of the grand nature of his house. These traits can also be read as nineteenth century feminine virtues.
Beth thus begins to practice the piano at Mr. Laurence’s house. She’s so overcome with Mr. Laurence’s generosity that she resolves to make him a pair of slippers, embroidered with pansies, as a token of her appreciation. After giving him the slippers, though, Mr. Laurence’s reply is delayed, and Beth worries she has offended him.
Flowers appear time and time again throughout Little Women, and they often represent beauty in its simplest and most ideal form. The slippers are a humble gift, one that reflects the class disparity between the two families.
Beth returns home one day to find that Mr. Laurence has replaced the March family’s old, broken piano with a luxurious cabinet piano that had once belonged to his deceased granddaughter. Much to everyone’s surprise, Beth marches right over to Mr. Laurence’s house and embraces the old man in thanks.
Once again, Mr. Laurence acts in a God-like fashion, rewarding Beth’s pious and thoughtful behavior with a lavish (but not overly lavish) gift. Beth repays him with an act of familial love.