By Trix Wilkins
A couple of scenes I’ve been speculating might have occurred prior to the opening of Little Women. Laurie’s parents first meet, and his father resists those ships to India. Yes this is fan fiction. Yes this is pure speculation. But goodness it was fun…
Background design courtesy of Canva
A meeting of worlds: the first encounter between Laurie’s parents
I’ve always envisaged there having been a status distinction between Laurie’s parents – his father being the wealthy sole heir to the Laurence merchant fleet, his mother being a talented pianist and daughter of a minister (there’s a hint of this assumption in The Courtship of Jo March). This is a conversation that might have taken place during their first encounter at church – after Laurie’s father Jonathan accidentally stumbles into a room of people praying then crosses paths with Eleanor, his later wife and Laurie’s mother.
“You seem rather disturbed, sir,” said she, with a side glance at him. “Surely you have seen people pray before.”
“Of course,” he said, huffily. Grace by his mother at dinner surely counted as prayer. “I just have never seen so many. It seems rather an extravagant use of time.”
He was certain she would now coldly leave him in peace to his own troubled thoughts; to his surprise, she smiled. “Tell me, sir. How often do you feed your horse?”
“Daily, of course,” he said. “But I do not personally do it. It is part of the privilege of being a gentleman.”
“And how often do you sharpen your pencils? I know you use those personally, and are particular about them.”
“What do you know of my pencils?” he exclaimed.
“It is a matter of public knowledge, your sketches,” replied she, laughing. “Fantastical designs, entirely impractical, if you believe some; daring, innovative, genius, if you listen to others. In any event, they are said to be so numerous that you keep the entire pencil industry in business.”
He remained silent, unsure whether to feel rather offended at his private passion being spoken of everywhere, or flattered that she would have paid attention to such reports.
“You could no more sketch without sharpened pencils, than my father could speak of God without prayer,” she went on. “You might try, but you would be frustrated, feel your efforts wasted, the outcome inevitably unsatisfactory. Think of every person in that room as a sharpened pencil. They are the absolutely essential first step to the endeavor. Being so essential, do you now see why I find your earlier remark somewhat…amusing?”
“I see that this is a subject of paramount importance to you,” he replied diplomatically. “As to why, perhaps you might pray that I will see the answer to that, too.”
It’s a bit like Star Wars: James and Jonathan Laurence talk about those ships
Laurie didn’t want to run the ships to India, and I’m imagining his father didn’t either. At this point Jonathan is neither a husband nor father, though he does love Eleanor. His elder brother Theodore was lost to illness, after whom Jonathan later names Laurie. With only one surviving son, James Laurence lays heavy pressure on Jonathan to take the rein of the family business.
“I am not Theodore,” said Jonathan.
“Of course not. Theodore knew his duty,” replied his father, rashly, angrily.
Jonathan bristled. “I know my duty, and it is not first and foremost to you, father.”
“And who else could command your loyalty?” demanded he. “You have no wife of whom to speak, unless you have joined yourself to that-”
“Careful, sir,” cut in Jonathan. “I love her more than anything in this world. You would do well to remember that. But it is not she of whom I speak. Your conscience is blunted, father. You have pursued wealth at the expense of your soul. I cannot follow where you lead. I will commit myself to these ships on the condition you will be open to suggestions to change and to improvement, for there is plenty of room for it.”
His father’s face was red with restrained indignation and anger.
“I will not run these ships against my conscience. I will not displease God in order to please you.”