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Tumultuous applause followed but received an unexpected check, for the cot bed, on which the dress circle was built, suddenly shut up and extinguished the enthusiastic audience. Roderigo and Don Pedro flew to the rescue, and all were taken out unhurt, though many were speechless with laughter. The excitement had hardly subsided when Hannah appeared, with "Mrs. March's compliments, and would the ladies walk down to supper."


Could you tell me why it's not "the ladies would walk down to supper" but "would the ladies walk down to supper"? Plus, would you tell me Mrs. March complimented whom? I'm not sure if Mrs. March complimented Hannah or Roderigo and Don Pedro.

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The quotation marks show that the writer has switched to direct speech.

Hannah said "would the ladies walk down to supper."

The word order makes this a polite request.

Including the phrase (with) Mrs March's compliments adds more politeness.

She is talking to everyone.

Also, remember this is written in old-fashioned English.

Comments  
anonymousCould you tell me why it's not "the ladies would walk down to supper" but "would the ladies walk down to supper"?

It's a kind of reported request. What Hannah probably actually said was something like "I bring you Mrs. March's compliments. Will the ladies please walk down to supper?"

anonymousPlus, would you tell me Mrs. March complimented whom? I'm not sure if Mrs. March complimented Hannah or Roderigo and Don Pedro.

She didn't compliment anybody. That is merely a polite formula, quite dated. It means something like "Mrs. March sends you her good wishes."

"Good wishes; regards: Extend my compliments to your parents." ( https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=compliment )

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 Clive's reply was promoted to an answer.

Thank you so much. Your paraphrasing is very helpful.

I was wondering if primary students in the U.S. could read the old-fashioned English.

To me, "Little women" is more difficult to read than Michael J. Sandel's book "Justice: What's The Right Thing to Do?"

anonymousI was wondering if primary students in the U.S. could read the old-fashioned English.

Not at first. You have to practice reading such stuff and ask questions and do research before you can understand it. I would say anything before 1900 is going to give you trouble, some more than others, and some even after that. The older, the worse, as a rule (Shakespeare is like a foreign language to the uninitiated). You might be able to find an annotated version that translates the difficult passages into modern English in the margin, but beware—most annotated books address only the background and not the language.

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