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Jo's Boys

Chapter 13: Nat's New Year
'I don't expect to hear from Emil yet, and Nat writes regularly, but where is Dan?
Only two or three postals since he went. Such an energetic fellow as he is could
buy up all the farms in Kansas by this time,' said Mrs Jo one morning when the
mail came in and no card or envelope bore Dan's dashing hand.
'He never writes often, you know, but does his work and then comes home.
Months and years seem to mean little to him, and he is probably prospecting in
the wilderness, forgetful of time,' answered Mr Bhaer, deep in one of Nat's long
letters from Leipzig.
'But he promised he would let me know how he got on, and Dan keeps his word if
he can. I'm afraid something has happened to him'; and Mrs Jo comforted herself
by patting Don's head, as he came at the sound of his master's name to look at
her with eyes almost human in their wistful intelligence.
'Don't worry, Mum dear, nothing ever happens to the old fellow. He'll turn up all
right, and come stalking in some day with a gold-mine in one pocket and a prairie
in the other, as jolly as a grig,' said Ted, who was in no haste to deliver Octoo to
her rightful owner.
'Perhaps he has gone to Montana and given up the farm plan. He seemed to like
Indians best, I thought'; and Rob went to help his mother with her pile of letters
and his cheerful suggestions.
'I hope so, it would suit him best. But I am sure he would have told us his change
of plan and sent for some money to work with. No, I feel in my prophetic bones
that something is wrong,' said Mrs Jo, looking as solemn as Fate in a breakfast-
'Then we shall hear; ill news always travels fast. Don't borrow trouble, Jo, but
hear how well Nat is getting on. I'd no idea the boy would care for anything but
music. My good friend Baumgarten has launched him well, and it will do him
good if he lose not his head. A good lad, but new to the world, and Leipzig is full
of snares for the unwary. Gott be with him!'
The Professor read Nat's enthusiastic account of certain literary and musical
parties he had been to, the splendours of the opera, the kindness of his new
friends, the delight of studying under such a master as Bergmann, his hopes of
rapid gain, and his great gratitude to those who had opened this enchanted world
to him.
'That, now, is satisfactory and comfortable. I felt that Nat had unsuspected power
in him before he went away; he was so manly and full of excellent plans,' said
Mrs Jo, in a satisfied tone.
'We shall see. He will doubtless get his lesson and be the better for it. That
comes to us all in our young days. I hope it will not be too hard for our good
Jungling,' answered the Professor, with a wise smile, remembering his own
student life in Germany.
He was right; and Nat was already getting his lesson in life with a rapidity which
would have astonished his friends at home. The manliness over which Mrs Jo
rejoiced was developing in unexpected ways, and quiet Nat had plunged into the