“傍晚时，我总是要散步的。我不知道为什么只是因为常碰巧遇到教授出门我就得放弃，“两三次路遇教授后，乔自言自语道。尽管梅格家有两条道可走，可 是不管她走哪条，肯定会遇上他，无论来去都是这样。他总是走得很快，而且似乎不到走到相当近，就看不见她，仿佛他的近视眼使他到那一刻才认出走近的女士。 然后，要是乔去梅格家，他总有些东西给两个孩子，要是她面朝家的方向，他便只是散步过来看看小河的，正打算回去呢，他担心他的频繁来访会使他们厌烦。
乔现在已是六神无主，不能保持昔日庄重的常态了。她试图对自己的感情采取断然措施，可她做不到，而愈加心浮气躁。过去她多次强烈宣布要独立，而现 在，她非常害怕因为自食其言而让人笑话。她特别怕劳里会笑话她，幸好有人管着他，他的言行举止倒没有什么出格、值得非议之处。公开场合他从不称巴尔先生 为"极好的老头儿"，也不以任何方式暗示乔大有变化。看到教授的帽子几乎是每天晚上都出现在马奇家客厅的桌子上，他也没有一点儿大惊小怪的表示。他心中欣 喜不已，企盼那个时候来临，他好送给乔一只馈赠盘，上面画有一个莽汉和一根破权杖，就像是枚盾形纹章，再合适不过了。
“要是你碰巧遇上巴尔先生，就带他回家来喝茶。我还真想见到那亲切可爱的人呢。“这句话乔听见了，但却没作回答。她只是亲了妈妈一下，便迅速走开 了。她尽管伤心，还是带着感激的喜悦想道：“她对我多好啊！那些没有妈妈帮助度过难关的姑娘们可怎么办啊？“先生们往往聚集在事务室、银行和批发商品贮藏 室。卖绸缎呢绒的商店不和上述地方位于一处，乔却发现自己不觉走到了那些地方。她一件差事没干，沿路闲逛，好像在等着什么人。她带着非常不适合女性的兴趣 浏览着这个橱窗里的机器仪表，那个橱窗里的羊毛样品。她打翻了货桶，几乎被下卸的货包压倒，忙碌着的男人们没礼貌地乱推着她，他们的神情好像奇怪"她究竟 怎么到了这里？“她脸上感到了一滴雨点，这把她的思绪从受挫的希望拉回到毁了的丝带。雨点继续在落，她作为女人又作为情人的细心柔肠让她感觉到了雨点。虽 然挽救破碎的心为时已晚，但也许还能挽救她的帽子。现在她记起了那把小雨桑仓促上路时她忘了带上它。可是后悔无益。没什么好做的，要么去借一把伞，要么任 由雨淋。她抬头看了看阴霾的天气，低头看看已经弄上点点黑斑的的红色帽结，又朝前看看泥泞的街道，然后踌躇地回头久久看着一家肮脏的货栈，货栈门上写着" 霍夫曼斯瓦兹联营公司"。乔带着苛刻的自责神情自言自语道--“我活该如此！我有什么理由要穿戴上我最好的衣帽，跑到这里来卖俏，希望见到教授？乔，我为 你感到羞耻！不，不能去那里借伞，也不能向他的朋友打听他在哪里。就在雨中跋涉，办你的事吧。假如你因淋雨患重伤风而死，并且淋毁了帽子，也一点儿不冤 枉。就这么办吧！“这样想着，她猛地冲往街对面，差一点被一辆开过来的卡车轧死。她一下撞进一个威严的老先生怀里，老先生有些生气，他说道：“对不起，小 姐。“乔有点胆怯了，她站直身，将手帕盖住那注定要遭殃的丝带，把诱惑置于脑后，慌不择路地走着。她脚踝越来越湿，头顶上行人的雨伞撞来撞去。一把有些旧 的蓝伞在她没有保护的帽子上定住不动了，一下子吸引了她的注意力。她抬起头来，看到巴尔先生正朝下看着她。
“我想知道那个意志坚强的女士是谁，她那么勇敢地在这许多马车前奔走，这么快地在烂泥路上穿行。你到这里来做什么，我的朋友？““我在买东西。“巴 尔先生笑了。他的眼光从街道一边的泡菜坊扫到另一边的皮革批发商行。但是他只礼貌地说道：“你没有伞，我可以和你一起去，帮你拿东西吗？““可以，谢谢。 “乔的面颊像她的丝带一般红了，她不知道他怎么想她的，可是她不在乎。一会儿她便发现自己和她的教授在手挽手走。
“你们对我那么好，你相信我竟会不辞而别？“他带着那种责备语气问。她感到好像那个暗示侮辱了他。她由衷地答道-—“不，我不相信。我知道你忙着自 己的事。可是我们非常想见你--特别是爸爸、妈妈。““那你呢？““见到你我总是高兴的，先生。“乔急切地想保持声音平稳，结果话说得非常冷静，句末那个 无情的小单音节似乎使教授扫兴，他的笑容消失了，他严肃地说道--“谢谢你。我走前会再去一次。““那么，你要走？““我这里没事了，已经完了。“
“你太客气了，我乐意告诉你。朋友们为我在大学谋到个职位，我将在那里和在家那样教书，挣得足够的钱为弗朗兹和埃米尔铺平道路。我为这事感到高兴， 该不该这样？““你真的该高兴。你能做你喜欢的事，我们又能常见到你，还有孩子们，这太妙了！“乔叫着，她情不自禁地露出了满意的神色，却拉着孩子们作幌 子。
巴尔先生能读几种语言，可是还不曾学过读懂妇女。他自以为相当了解乔。所以，那天乔的声音、脸色、态度相互矛盾，使他大为惊讶，她接二连三地露出矛 盾，半个小时内心境变换了五六次。遇到他时她看上去惊喜，虽然不由得让人怀疑她是为那个采买的目的而来的。当他把胳膊伸给她时，她挽上胳膊的表情使她充满 喜悦。可是当他问及她是否想他时，她的回答那样正式，让人扫兴，以致绝望笼罩了他。获悉他的好运，她几乎拍起手来，那完全是为孩子们高兴吗？然后，听说了 他的目的地，她又说：“那么远啊！“她绝望的语调将他举到了希望的顶峰。可是，转眼间她又使他掉落下来。她像完全沉浸在差事中那样说--“我采买东西的地 方到了。你进来吗？要不了多长时间。“乔很为她的采买能力自豪。她特别想麻利、敏捷地完成差事，给她的陪伴留下深刻印象。可是，由于她心绪不宁，结果事事 别扭。她打翻了针盒，忘了要买的亚麻布是"斜纹的"，还找错了零钱。她在印花布柜台要买淡紫色丝带，自己弄得糊里糊涂。巴尔先生站在一旁，看着她红着脸， 犯着错。
“葡萄汉堡包，是的，我们将用这些东西为祖国干杯，好吗？“乔觉得这有些奢侈而皱起了眉头。她问他为什么不买一草篓枣子、一罐葡萄干、一袋扁桃，然 后就此打祝于是，巴尔先生没收了她的钱包，拿出了他自己的。他买子几磅葡萄、一盆粉红色雏菊，还有漂亮的一瓶蜂蜜，说它漂亮是从盛它的小颈大起来看的。就 这样购买完毕。他的口袋被些小球形物品撑得变了形。他把花交给乔拿着，自己撑开那把阳伞，两个人继续行路。
“也可能还为蒂娜的母亲买条披肩。她那么穷，丈夫又是那样的一个拖累。对了，对了，带给那小母亲一条暖和的披肩将会有帮助的。““我会乐意效劳的， 巴尔先生。我很快就要在他心中消失了，而他却每分钟越来越可爱了，“乔接着对自己说。然后，她带着思想上受到的打击，十足热心地为他参谋起来，好像什么也 没发生。
“是的，不早了，而且我这么累。“乔的声音不知不觉感伤起来，因为，现在太阳就像刚才出来那样，突然钻进去了，她第一次发现，她的双脚冰冷，头也作 痛，她的心比脚更冷，心中的疼痛比头疼更甚。巴尔先生就要离开她了。他喜欢她，只是作为朋友，这一切都是个错误。结束得越早越好。她脑中这样想着，便叫住 了一辆开近的公共马车。她叫车的手势那样仓促，使得雏菊飞出了花盆，糟糕地毁坏了。
乔若不是因为初涉爱河，她会说她不是在哭，而是鼻子有点不适，淌清鼻涕，或者扯个别的适时的女人家小谎。可是她没那样说，却遏制不住地抽泣着，有损 尊严地回答：“因为你要走了。““Ａｃｈ，ｍｅｉｎＧｏｔｔ，那太好了，“巴尔先生叫了起来。他顾不上雨伞和物品，费劲地拍起手来。“乔，除了许多的爱， 我没什么给你的了。我来是看看你可在乎我的爱的。我等待着能确信这一点，我和你的关系超出朋友，是不是这样？你能为老弗里茨在心中留个小位置吗？“他一口 气说完这些话。
这种求婚方式当然困难，因为，即便巴尔先生愿意下跪，地上的烂泥也使他不能这么做。用比喻的说法，他也不能伸手给乔向她求婚，因为他双手都拿着东 西。更不用说在光天化日之下忘情地表达爱慕之心，尽管他差一点就这样做了。所以，唯一能表达他狂喜心情的方式便是看着她，那是种容光焕发的表情。实际上， 他胡子上闪着的亮晶晶的泪光里似乎有着小彩虹。假若他不是那样深爱着乔，我想，当时他不可能那样的。她看着决非翩翩淑女，她的裙子处于悲惨的境地，胶靴上 泥巴一直溅到脚脖子，帽子也一塌糊涂。幸好，在巴尔先生眼中，她是世上活着的女人中最美丽的。而她也发现他比以前更"像朱庇特"了，虽然他的帽边差不多卷 曲了，小溪从那上面流向他的双肩（因为他把伞全给乔遮雨了），而且他手套的每一个指头都需要缝补。
路人也许会以为他们俩是一对没有恶意的神经病，因为，他们完全忘了叫车，忘了渐浓的暮色与雾，从容不迫地信步走着。他们根本不在乎别人怎样看他们， 他们沉浸在幸福的时光里，这种时光极少来临，一生只有这一次。这个神奇的时刻给老人青春，给丑人美貌，给穷人财富，让人类预先尝到天堂的滋味。教授看上去 像是征服了一个王国。他幸福之至，尘世赐予他的没有比这更多的了。乔在他身边沉重地跋涉着，她感到好像她的位置一直就该在这里，纳闷她以前怎么会选择别的 命运。当然，是她先开口说话--我是说，这可以理解，因为，她先激动地说：“哦，好的！“随后又动情地说话，这不太一致，也不值得报道。
“现在我让你洞悉了我所有的心思，我也非常高兴这么做，因为从此以后卿得照拂它。明白了吗？我的乔--啊，那可爱、有趣的小名字--那天在纽约和你 道别时，我就想对你说些什么。可是，我以为那漂亮的朋友和你订了婚，所以我没说什么。假如我那时说了，卿会回答'好的'吗？““我不知道。恐怕我不会说 的。那时我一点心思也没有。““哦！我不相信。它睡着了，直到那可爱的王子穿过树林，将它弄醒。啊，是的。 'ＤｉｅｅｒｓｔｅＬｉｅｂｅｉｓｔｄｉｅｂｅｓｔｅ，，可是我不应那样企盼。““是的，初恋确实最珍贵，所以你就知足吧，因为我从来没有另外的恋爱。特 迪只是个男孩，我很快就打消掉了他的幻想，“乔说。她急于纠正教授的错误。
“让它去吧，它已完成了使命。等我读完她记录小秘密的褐皮书，我会读到她的新作的，“教授笑着说。他注视着纸片在风中飞散。“是的，“他诚挚地补充 道，“我读了那首诗，心里想，她有痛苦，她感到孤独，她将在真正的爱情中找到安慰。我心中充满了爱，充满了对她的爱，难道我不应该去对她说：'假如这爱不 是太微不足道，以上帝的名义，接受它吧，我也希望能接受到爱。'““所以你就来查明它是不是微不足道，结果发现那是我需要的宝贵东西，“乔低声地说。
“让我离开实属不易。但是，我没有勇气将你从那么幸福的家里带走，直到我能有希望为你提供一个幸福之家。那要经过很长时间，也许还得努力工作。我除 了一点点学问，没有财产。我怎能要求你为我这么个又穷又老的人放弃那么多东西呢？““你穷我乐意。我忍受不了一个有钱的丈夫，“乔决然说道。然后她用更柔 和的声调补充道：“别害怕贫穷，我早就尝尽了贫穷的滋味，贫穷不再能使我恐惧。为我所爱的人们工作我感到幸福。别说你自己老了--四十正当年。即便你七十 岁，我也不由地爱你！“教授被深深打动了，要是他能拿出他的手帕，他早就拿出来了。可是他双手抓着东西没法拿，于是乔为他擦去了眼泪。她接过去一两件东 西，一边笑着说--“我也许是好胜，可是现在谁也不能说我越出本分了，因为女人的特殊使命便是为人擦眼泪，忍辱负重。我要承受我那一份，弗里德里克，我要 帮着挣钱养家。这一点你得拿定主意，否则我决不去那儿，“她坚定地补充道。同时，他试图拿回物品。
“我们会看到我们的未来的。乔，耐心等待一段长时间，好吗？我得离开去独自工作。我必须先帮助我的孩子们，因为，即便是为了你，我也不能对明娜失 信。你能原谅我吗？能幸福地希望、等待着吗？““是的，我知道我能，因为我们相互爱着，那其他的一切便都无足轻重了。我也有我的责任和工作。即使是为了你 而忽视了它们，我也不会快活。所以没必要慌忙或焦躁。你可以在西部尽你的责任，我在这里干我的。我们俩都幸福地做着最好的打算，把将来交由上帝安排。“ “哦，卿予我这么大的希望与勇气。我除了一颗盛满爱的心和一双空手，没有别的可以给你了，“教授叫道，他完全不能自持了。
乔从来、从来就学不会规矩。他们站在台阶上，他说出那些话，乔只是将双手放进他的手里，温柔地低语道：“现在不空了。“然后，她俯身在雨伞下亲吻了 她的弗里德里克。这真算是出格了。可是，即使那一群栖息在树篱上的拖尾巴麻雀是人类，她也会那样做，因为她真的忘乎所以了。除了她自己的幸福，她完全顾不 了其他的事了。这是他们俩一生中最幸福的时刻，尽管这一刻是以非常简单的形式出现的。暗夜、风暴、孤独已经过去，迎候他们的是家庭的光明、温暖与宁静。乔 高兴地说着"欢迎你回家！“将她的心上人领进屋，关上了门。
While Laurie and Amy were taking conjugal strolls over velvetcarpets, as they set their house in order, and planned a blissfulfuture, Mr. Bhaer and Jo were enjoying promenades of a differentsort, along muddy roads and sodden fields.
"I always do take a walk toward evening, and I don't knowwhy I should give it up, just because I happen to meet the Professoron his way out," said Jo to herself, after two or threeencounters, for though there were two paths to Meg's whicheverone she took she was sure to meet him., either going or returning.He was always walking rapidly, and never seemed to see heruntil quite close, when he would look as if his short-sightedeyes had failed to recognize the approaching lady till thatmoment. Then, if she was going to Meg's he always had somethingfor the babies. If her face was turned homeward, he had merelystrolled down to see the river, and was just returning, unlessthey were tired of his frequent calls.
Under the circumstances, what could Jo do but greet himcivilly, and invite him in? If she was tired of his visits, sheconcealed her weariness with perfect skill, and took care thatthere should be coffee for supper, "as Friedrich--I mean Mr.Bhaer--doesn't like tea."
By the second week, everyone knew perfectly well what wasgoing on, yet everyone tried to look as if they were stone-blindto the changes in Jo's face. They never asked why she sang abouther work, did up her hair three times a day, and got so bloomingwith her evening exercise. And no one seemed to have the slightestsuspicion that Professor Bhaer, while talking philosophy withthe father, was giving the daughter lessons in love.
Jo couldn't even lose her heart in a decorous manner, butsternly tried to quench her feelings, and failing to do so, leda somewhat agitated life. She was mortally afraid of being laughedat for surrendering, after her many and vehement declarations ofindependence. Laurie was her especial dread, but thanks to thenew manager, he behaved with praiseworthy propriety, never calledMr. Bhaer `a capital old fellow' in public, never alluded, in theremotest manner, to Jo's improved appearance, or expressed theleast surprise at seeing the Professor's hat on the Marches' tablenearly every evening. But he exulted in private and longed forthe time to come when he could give Jo a piece of plate, with abear and a ragged staff on it as an appropriate coat of arms.
For a fortnight, the Professor came and went with lover-likeregularity. Then he stayed away for three whole days, and madeno sign, a proceeding which caused everybody to look sober, andJo to become pensive, at first, and then--alas for romance--verycross.
"Disgusted, I dare say, and gone home as suddenly as he came.It's nothing tome, of course, but I should think he would havecome and bid us goodbye like a gentleman," she said to herself,with a despairing look at the gate, as she put on her things forthe customary walk one dull afternoon.
"You'd better take the little umbrella, dear. It looks likerain," said her mother, observing that she had on her new bonnet,but not alluding to the fact.
"Yes, Marmee, do you want anything in town? I've got torun in and get some paper," returned Jo, pulling out the bowunder her chin before the glass as an excuse for not looking ather mother.
"Yes, I want some twilled silesia, a paper of number nineneedles, and two yards of narrow lavender ribbon. Have you gotyour thick boots on, and something warm under your cloak?"
"I believe so," answered Jo absently.
"If you happen to meet Mr. Bhaer, bring him home to tea.I quite long to see the dear man," added Mrs. March.
Jo heard that, but made no answer, except to kiss her mother,and walk rapidly away, thinking with a glow of gratitude, in spiteof her heartache, "How good she is to me! What do girls do whohaven't any mothers to help them through their troubles?"
The dry-goods stores were not down among the counting-houses,banks, and wholesale warerooms, where gentlemen most do congregate,but Jo found herself in that part of the city before she did asingle errand, loitering along as if waiting for someone, examiningengineering instruments in one window and samples of wool inanother, with most unfeminine interest, tumbling over barrels,being half-smothered by descending bales, and hustled unceremoniouslyby busy men who looked as if they wondered `how the deuceshe got there'. A drop of rain on her cheek recalled her thoughtsfrom baffled hopes to ruined ribbons. For the drops continued tofall, and being a woman as well as a lover, she felt that, thoughit was too late to save her heart, she might her bonnet. Now sheremembered the little umbrella, which she had forgotten to takein her hurry to be off, but regret was unavailing, and nothingcould be done but borrow one or submit to to a drenching. Shelooked up at the lowering sky, down at the crimson bow alreadyflecked with black, forward along the muddy street, then onelong, lingering look behind, at a certain grimy warehouse, with`Hoffmann, Swartz, & Co.' over the door, and said to herself,with a sternly reproachful air...
"It serves me right! what business had I to put on all mybest things and come philandering down here, hoping to see theProfessor? Jo, I'm ashamed of you! No, you shall not go thereto borrow an umbrella, or find out where he is, from his friends.You shall trudge away, and do your errands in the rain, and ifyou catch your death and ruin your bonnet, it's no more thanyou deserve. Now then!"
With that she rushed across the street so impetuously that shenarrowly escaped annihilation from a passing truck, and precipitatedherself into the arms of a stately old gentleman, who said,"I beg pardon, ma'am," and looked mortally offended. Somewhatdaunted, Jo righted herself, spread her handkerchief overthe devoted ribbons, and putting temptation behind her, hurried on,with increasing dampness about the ankles, and much clashing ofumbrellas overhead. The fact that a somewhat dilapidated blueone remained stationary above the unprotected bonnet attractedher attention, and looking up, she saw Mr. Bhaer looking down.
"I feel to know the strong-minded lady who goes so bravelyunder many horse noses, and so fast through much mus. What doyou down here, my friend?"
Mr. Bhaer smiled, as he glanced from the pickle factory onone side to the wholesale hide and leather concern on the other,but her only said politely, "You haf no umbrella. May I go also,and take for you the bundles?"
"Yes, thank you."
Jo's cheeks were as red as her ribbon, and she wondered whathe thought of her, but she didn't care, for in a minute she foundherself walking away arm in arm with her Professor, feeling as ifthe sun had suddenly burst out with uncommon brilliancy, thatthe world was all right again, and that one thoroughly happy womanwas paddling through the wet that day.
"We thought you had gone," said Jo hastily, for she knew hewas looking at her. Her bonnet wasn't big enough to hide her face,and she feared he might think the joy it betrayed unmaidenly.
"Did you believe that I should go with no farewell to thosewho haf been so heavenly kind tome?" he asked so reproachfullythat she felt as if she had insulted him by the suggestion, andanswered heartily...
"No, I didn't. I knew you were busy about your own affairs,but we rather missed you, Father and Mother especially."
"I'm always glad to see you, sir."
In her anxiety to keep her voice quite calm, Jo made it rathercool, and the frosty little monosyllable at the end seemed to chillthe Professor, for his smile vanished, as he said gravely...
"I thank you, and come one more time before I go."
"You are going, then?"
"I haf no longer any business here, it is done."
"Successfully, I hope?" said Jo, for the bitterness of disappointmentwas in that short reply of his.
"I ought to think so, for I haf a way opened to me by whichI can make my bread and gif my Junglings much help."
"Tell me, please! I like to know all about the--the boys,"
said Jo eagerly.
"That is so kind, I gladly tell you. My friends find for mea place in a college, where I teach as at home, and earn enoughto make the way smooth for Franz and Emil. For this I should begrateful, should I not?"
"Indeed you should. How splendid it will be to have youdoing what you like, and be able to see you often, and the boys!"cried Jo, clinging to the lads as an excuse for the satisfactionshe could not help betraying.
"Ah! But we shall not meet often, I fear, this place is atthe West."
"So far away!" And Jo left her skirts to their fate, as ifit didn't matter now what became of her clothes or herself.
Mr. Bhaer could read several languages, but he had notlearned to read women yet. He flattered himself that he knewJo pretty well, and was, therefore, much amazed by the contradictionsof voice, face, and manner, which she showed him in rapidsuccession that day, for she was in half a dozen differentmoods in the course of half an hour. When she met him she lookedsurprised, though it was impossible to help suspecting that shehad come for that express purpose. When he offered her his arm,she took it with a look that filled him with delight, but whenhe asked if she missed him, she gave such a chilly, formal replythat despair fell upon him. On learning his good fortune shealmost clapped her hands. Was the joy all for the boys? Thenon hearing his destination, she said, "So far away!" in a toneof despair that lifted him on to a pinnacle of hope, but thenext minute she tumbled him down again by observing, like oneentirely absorbed in the matter...
"Here's the place for my errands. Will you come in? Itwon't take long."
Jo rather prided herself upon her shopping capabilities,and particularly wished to impress her escort with the neatnessand dispatch with which she would accomplish the business.But owing to the flutter she was in, everything went amiss.She upset the tray of needles, forgot the silesia was to be`twilled' till it was cut off, gave the wrong change, andcovered herself with confusion by asking for lavender ribbonat the calico counter. Mr. Bhaer stood by, watching her blushand blunder, and as he watched, his own bewilderment seemed tosubside, for he was beginning to see that on some occasions,women, like dreams, go by contraries.
When they came out, he put the parcel under his arm witha more cheerful aspect, and splashed through the puddles as ifhe rather enjoyed it on the whole.
"Should we no do a little what you call shopping for thebabies, and haf a farewell feast tonight if I go for my lastcall at your so pleasant home?" he asked, stopping before awindow full of fruit and flowers.
"What will we buy?" asked Jo, ignoring the latter part ofhis speech, and sniffing the mingled odors with an affectationof delight as they went in.
"May they haf oranges and figs?" asked Mr. Bhaer, with apaternal air.
"They eat them when they can get them.""Do you care for nuts?"
"Like a squirrel."
"Hamburg grapes. Yes, we shall drink to the Fatherland inthose?"
Jo frowned upon that piece of extravagance, and asked whyhe didn't buy a frail of dated, a cask of raisins, and a bag ofalmonds, and be done with it? Whereat Mr. Bhaer confiscated herpurse, produced his own, and finished the marketing by buyingseveral pounds of grapes, a pot of rosy daisies, and a prettyjar of honey, to be regarded in the light of a demijohn. Thendistorting his pockets with knobby bundles, and giving her theflowers to hold, he put up the old umbrella, and they traveledon again.
"Miss Marsch, I haf a great favor to ask of you," began theProfessor, after a moist promenade of half a block.
"Yes, sir." And Jo's heart began to beat so hard she wasafraid he would hear it.
"I am bold to say it in spite of the rain, because so shorta time remains to me."
"Yes, sir." And Jo nearly crushed the small flowerpot withthe sudden squeeze she gave it.
"I wish to get a little dress for my Tina, and I am too stupidto go alone. Will you kindly gif me a word of taste and help?"
"Yes, sir." And JO felt as calm and cool all of a sudden as ifshe had stepped into a refrigerator.
"Perhaps also a shawl for Tina's mother, she is so poor and sick,and the husband is such a care. Yes, yes, a thick, warm shawlwould be a friendly thing to take the little mother."
"I'll do it with pleasure, Mr. Bhaer. I'm going very fast,and he's getting dearer every minute," added Jo to herself, thenwith a mental shake she entered into the business with an energythat was pleasant to behold.
Mr. Bhaer left it all to her, so she chose a pretty gown forTina, and then ordered out the shawls. The clerk, being a marriedman, condescended to take an interest in the couple, who appearedto be shopping for their family.
"Your lady may prefer this. It's a superior article, a mostdesirable color, quite chaste and genteel," he said, shaking outa comfortable gray shawl, and throwing it over Jo's shoulders.
"Does this suit you, Mr. Bhaer?" she asked, turning herback to him, and feeling deeply grateful for the chance of hidingher face.
"Excellently well, we will haf it," answered the Professor,smiling to himself as he paid for it, while Jo continued torummage the counters like a confirmed bargain-hunter.
"Now shall we go home?" he asked, as if the words werevery pleasant to him.
"Yes, it's late, and I'm so tired." Jo's voice was morepathetic than she knew. For now the sun seemed to have gonein as suddenly as it came out, and the world grew muddy andmiserable again, and for the first time she discovered that herfeet were cold, her head ached, and that her heart was colderthan the former, fuller of pain than the latter. Mr. Bhaerwas going away, he only cared for her as a friend, it was alla mistake, and the sooner it was over the better. With thisidea in her head, she hailed an approaching omnibus with sucha hasty gesture that the daisies flew out of the pot and werebadly damaged.
"This is not our omniboos," said the Professor, waving theloaded vehicle away, and stopping to pick up the poor littleflowers.
"I beg your pardon. I didn't see the name distinctly. Nevermind, I can walk. I'm used to plodding in the mud," returned Jo,winking hard, because she would have died rather than openlywipe her eyes.
Mr. Bhaer saw the drops on her cheeks, though she turned herhead away. The sight seemed to touch him very much, for suddenlystooping down, he asked in a tone that meant a great deal, "Heart'sdearest, why do you cry?"
Now, if Jo had not been new to this sort of thing she wouldhave said she wasn't crying, had a cold in her head, or toldany other feminine fib proper to the occasion. Instead of which,that undignified creature answered, with an irrepressible sob,"Because you are going away."
"Ach, mein Gott, that is so good!" cried Mr. Bhaer, managingto clasp his hands in spite of the umbrella and the bundles,"Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you. I came to see ifyou could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was somethingmore than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in yourheart for old Fritz?" he added, all in one breath.
"Oh, yes!" said Jo, and he was quite satisfied, for shefolded both hands over his are, and looked up at him with anexpression that plainly showed how happy she would be to walkthrough life beside him, even though she had no better shelterthan the old umbrella, if he carried it.
It was certainly proposing under difficulties, for even ifhe had desired to do so, Mr. Bhaer could not go down upon hisknees, on account of the mud. Neither could he offer Jo hishand, except figuratively, for both were full. Much less couldhe indulge in tender remonstrations in the open street, thoughhe was near it. So the only way in which he could express hisrapture was to look at her, with an expression which glorifiedhis face to such a degree that there actually seemed to belittle rainbows in the drops that sparkled on his beard. Ifhe had not loved Jo very much, I don't think he could have doneit then, for she looked far from lovely, with her skirts in adeplorable state, her rubber boots splashed to the ankle, andher bonnet a ruin. Fortunately, Mr. Bhaer considered her themost beautiful woman living, and she found him more `Jove-like"than ever, though his hatbrim was quite limp with the littlerills trickling thence upon his shoulders (for he held theumbrella all over Jo), and every finger of his gloves neededmending.
Passers-by probably thought them a pair of harmless lunatics,for they entirely forgot to hail a bus, and strolledleisurely along, oblivious of deepening dusk and fog. Littlethey cared what anybody thought, for they were enjoying thehappy hour that seldom comes but once in any life, the magicalmoment which bestows youth on the old, beauty on the plain,wealth on the poor, and gives human hearts a foretaste of heaven.The Professor looked as if he had conquered a kingdom, and theworld had nothing more to offer him in the way of bliss. WhileJo trudged beside him, feeling as if her place had always beenthere, and wondering how she ever could have chosen any otherlot. Of course, she was the first to speak--intelligibly, Imean, for the emotional remarks which followed her impetuous"Oh, yes!" were not of a coherent or reportable character.
"Friedrich, why didn't you..."
"Ah, heaven, she gifs me the name that no one speaks sinceMinna died!" cried the Professor, pausing in a puddle to regardher with grateful delight.
"I always call you so to myself--I forgot, but I won't unlessyou like it."
"Like it? It is more sweet to me than I can tell. Say `thou',also, and I shall say your language is almost as beautiful as mine."
"Isn't `thou' a little sentimental?" asked Jo, privately thinkingit a lovely monosyllable.
"Sentimental? Yes. Thank Gott, we Germans believe in sentiment,and keep ourselves young mit it. Your English `you' is so cold, say`thou', heart's dearest, it means so much to me," pleaded Mr. Bhaer,more like a romantic student than a grave professor.
"Well, then, why didn't thou tell me all this sooner?" askedJo bashfully.
"Now I shall haf to show thee all my heart, and I so gladlywill, because thou must take care of it hereafter. See, then, myJo--ah, the dear, funny little name--I had a wish to tell somethingthe day I said goodbye in New York, but I thought the handsomefriend was betrothed to thee, and so I spoke not. Wouldst thouhave said `Yes', then, if I had spoken?"
"I don't know. I'm afraid not, for I didn't have any heart just then."
"Prut! That I do not believe. It was asleep till the fairy princecame through the wood, and waked it up. Ah, well, `Die erste Liebeist die beste', but that I should not expect."
"Yes, the first love is the best, but be so contented, for Inever had another. Teddy was only a boy, and soon got over hislittle fancy," said Jo, anxious to correct the Professor's mistake.
"Good! Then I shall rest happy, and be sure that thou givestme all. I haf waited so long, I am grown selfish, as thou wiltfind , Professorin."
"I like that," cried Jo, delighted with her new name. "Nowtell me what brought you, at last, just when I wanted you?"
"This." And Mr. Bhaer took a little worn paper out of hiswaistcoat pocket.
Jo unfolded it, and looked much abashed, for it was one ofher own contributions to a paper that paid for poetry, whichaccounted for her sending it an occasional attempt.
"How could that bring you?" she asked, wondering what hemeant.
"I found it by chance. I knew it by the names and theinitials, and in it there was one little verse that seemed tocall me. Read and find him. I will see that you go not inthe wet."
IN THE GARRET
Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
All fashioned and filled, long ago,By children now in their prime.
Four little keys hung side by side,With faded ribbons, brave and gay
When fastened there, with childish pride,Long ago, on a rainy day.
Four little names, one on each lid,Carved out by a boyish hand,
And underneath there lieth hid
Histories of the happpy band
Once playing here, and pausing oft
To hear the sweet refrain,
That came and went on the roof aloft,In the falling summer rain.
"Meg" on the first lid, smooth and fair.I look in with loving eyes,
For folded here, with well-known care,A goodly gathering lies,
The record of a peaceful life--
Gifts to gentle child and girl,
A bridal gown, lines to a wife,
A tiny shoe, a baby curl.
No toys in this first chest remain,For all are carried away,
In their old age, to join again
In another small Meg's play.
Ah, happy mother! Well I know
You hear, like a sweet refrain,
Lullabies ever soft and low
In the falling summer rain.
"Jo" on the next lid, scratched and worn,And within a motley store
Of headless, dolls, of schoolbooks torn,Birds and beasts that speak no more,Spoils brought home from the fairy groundOnly trod by youthful feet,
Dreams of a future never found,
Memories of a past still sweet,
Half-writ poems, stories wild,
April letters, warm and cold,
Diaries of a wilful child,
Hints of a woman early old,
A woman in a lonely home,
Hearing, like a sad refrain--
"Be worthy, love, and love will come,"In the falling summer rain.
My Beth! the dust is always swept
From the lid that bears your name,As if by loving eyes that wept,
By careful hands that often came.
Death cannonized for us one saint,Ever less human than divine,
And still we lay, with tender plaint,Relics in this household shrine--
The silver bell, so seldom rung,
The little cap which last she wore,The fair, dead Catherine that hung
By angels borne above her door.
The songs she sang, without lament,In her prison-house of pain,
Forever are they sweetly blent
With the falling summer rain.
Upon the last lid's polished field--Legend now both fair and true
A gallant knight bears on his shield,"Amy" in letters gold and blue.
Within lie snoods that bound her hair,Slippers that have danced their last,Faded flowers laid by with care,
Fans whose airy toils are past,
Gay valentines, all ardent flames,Trifles that have borne their part
In girlish hopes and fears and shames,The record of a maiden heart
Now learning fairer, truer spells,Hearing, like a blithe refrain,
The silver sound of bridal bells
In the falling summer rain.
Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
Four women, taught by weal and woe
To love and labor in their prime.
Four sisters, parted for an hour,
None lost, one only gone before,
Made by love's immortal power,
Nearest and dearest evermore.
Oh, when these hidden stores of oursLie open to the Father's sight,
May they be rich in golden hours,
Deeds that show fairer for the light,Lives whose brave music long shall ring,Like a spirit-stirring strain,
Souls that shall gladly soar and singIn the long sunshine after rain.
"It's very bad poetry, but I felt it when I wrote it, one daywhen I was very lonely, and had a good cry on a rag bag. I neverthought it would go where it could tell tales," said Jo, tearingup the verses the Professor had treasured so long.
"Let it go, it has done it's duty, and I will haf a fresh onewhen I read all the brown book in which she keeps her littlesecrets," said Mr. Bhaer with a smile as he watched the fragmentsfly away on the wind. "Yes," he added earnestly, "I read that,and I think to myself, She has a sorrow, she is lonely, she wouldfind comfort in true love. I haf a heart full, full for her. ShallI not go and say, "If this is not too poor a thing to gif for whatI shall hope to receive, take it in Gott's name?"
"And so you came to find that it was not too poor, but the oneprecious thing I needed," whispered Jo.
"I had no courage to think that at first, heavenly kind as wasyour welcome to me. But soon I began to hope, and then I said,`I will haf her if I die for it,' and so I will!" cried Mr. Bhaer,with a defiant nod, as if the walls of mist closing round them werebarriers which he was to surmount or valiantly knock down.
Jo thought that was splendid, and resolved to be worthy of her knight,though he did not come prancing on a charger in gorgeous array.
"What made you stay away so long?" she asked presently, findingit so pleasant to ask confidential questions and get delightfulanswers that she could not keep silent.
"It was not easy, but I could not find the heart to take youfrom that so happy home until I could haf a prospect of one togif you, after much time, perhaps, and hard work. How could I askyou to gif up so much for a poor old fellow, who has no fortunebut a little learning?"
"I'm glad you are poor. I couldn't bear a rich husband,"said Jo decidedly, adding in a softer tone, "Don't fear poverty.I've known it long enough to lose my dread and be happy workingfor those I love, and don't call yourself old--forty is the primeof life. I couldn't help loving you if you were seventy!"
The Professor found that so touching that he would have beenglad of his handkerchief, if he could have got at it. As hercouldn't, Jo wiped his eyes for him, and said, laughing, as shetook away a bundle or two...
"I may be strong-minded, but no one can say I'm out of mysphere now, for woman's special mission is supposed to be dryingtears and bearing burdens. I'm to carry my share, Friedrich,and help to earn the home. Make up your mind to that, or I'llnever go," she added resolutely, as he tried to reclaim his load.
"We shall see. Haf you patience to wait a long time, Jo?I must go away and do my work alone. I must help my boys first,because, even for you, I may not break my word to Minna. Canyou forgif that, and be happy while we hope and wait?"
"Yes, I know I can, for we love one another, and that makesall the rest easy to bear. I have my duty, also, and my work.I couldn't enjoy myself if I neglected them even for you, sothere's no need of hurry or impatience. You can do your partout West, I can do mine here, and both be happy hoping for thebest, and leaving the future to be as God wills."
"Ah! Thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I haf nothingto gif back but a full heart and these empty hands," cried theProfessor, quite overcome.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he saidthat as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands intohis, whispering tenderly, "Not empty now," and stooping down,kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella. It was dreadful, butshe would have done it if the flock of draggle-tailed sparrowson the hedge had been human beings, for she was very far goneindeed, and quite regardless of everything but her own happiness.Though it came in such a very simple guise, that was the crowningmoment of both their lives, when, turning from the night andstorm and loneliness to the household light and warmth and peacewaiting to receive them, with a glad "Welcome home!" Jo led herlover in, and shut the door.