Chapter 15: Waiting
'My wife, I have bad news for thee,' said Professor Bhaer, coming in one day
early in January.
'Please tell it at once. I can't bear to wait, Fritz,' cried Mrs Jo, dropping her work
and standing up as if to take the shot bravely.
'But we must wait and hope, heart's-dearest. Come and let us bear it together.
Emil's ship is lost, and as yet no news of him.'
It was well Mr Bhaer had taken his wife into his strong arms, for she looked ready
to drop, but bore up after a moment, and sitting by her good man, heard all that
there was to tell. Tidings had been sent to the shipowners at Hamburg by some
of the survivors, and telegraphed at once by Franz to his uncle. As one boat-load
was safe, there was hope that others might also escape, though the gale had
sent two to the bottom. A swift-sailing steamer had brought these scanty news,
and happier ones might come at any hour; but kind Franz had not added that the
sailors reported the captain's boat as undoubtedly wrecked by the falling mast,
since the smoke hid its escape, and the gale soon drove all far asunder. But this
sad rumour reached Plumfield in time; and deep was the mourning for the
happyhearted Commodore, never to come singing home again. Mrs Jo refused
to believe it, stoutly insisting that Emil would outlive any storm and yet turn up
safe and gay. It was well she clung to this hopeful view, for poor Mr Bhaer was
much afflicted by the loss of his boy, because his sister's sons had been his so
long he scarcely knew a different love for his very own. Now was a chance for
Mrs Juno to keep her word; and she did, speaking cheerily of Emil, even when
hope waxed faint and her heart was heavy. If anything could comfort the Bhaers
for the loss of one boy, it would have been the affection and sorrow shown by all
the rest. Franz kept the cable busy with his varying messages, Nat sent loving
letters from Leipzig, and Tom harassed the shipping agents for news. Even busy
Jack wrote them with unusual warmth; Dolly and George came often, bearing the
loveliest flowers and the daintiest bon-bons to cheer Mrs Bhaer and sweeten
Josie's grief; while good-hearted Ned travelled all the way from Chicago to press
their hands and say, with a tear in his eye: 'I was so anxious to hear all about the
dear old boy, I couldn't keep away.'
'That's right comfortable, and shows me that if I didn't teach my boys anything
else, I did give them the brotherly love that will make them stand by one another
all their lives,' said Mrs Jo, when he had gone.
Rob answered reams of sympathizing letters, which showed how many friends
they had; and the kindly praises of the lost man would have made Emil a hero
and a saint, had they all been true. The elders bore it quietly, having learned
submission in life's hard school; but the younger people rebelled; some hoped
against hope and kept up, others despaired at once, and little Josie, Emil's pet
cousin and playmate, was so broken-hearted nothing could comfort her. Nan
dosed in vain, Daisy's cheerful words went by like the wind, and Bess's devices
to amuse her all failed utterly. To cry in mother's arms and talk about the wreck,