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Little Women

Under the Umbrella
While Laurie and Amy were taking conjugal strolls over velvet carpets, as they set their
house in order, and planned a blissful future, Mr. Bhaer and Jo were enjoying
promenades of a different sort, along muddy roads and sodden fields.
"I always do take a walk toward evening, and I don't know why I should give it up, just
because I happen to meet the Professor on his way out," said Jo to herself, after two or
three encounters, for though there were two paths to Meg's whichever one she took she
was sure to meet him., either going or returning. He was always walking rapidly, and
never seemed to see her until quite close, when he would look as if his short-sighted eyes
had failed to recognize the approaching lady till that moment. Then, if she was going to
Meg's he always had something for the babies. If her face was turned homeward, he had
merely strolled down to see the river, and was just returning, unless they were tired of his
frequent calls.
Under the circumstances, what could Jo do but greet him civilly, and invite him in? If she
was tired of his visits, she concealed her weariness with perfect skill, and took care that
there should be coffee for supper, "as Friedrich--I mean Mr. Bhaer--doesn't like tea."
By the second week, everyone knew perfectly well what was going on, yet everyone tried
to look as if they were stone-blind to the changes in Jo's face. They never asked why she
sang about her work, did up her hair three times a day, and got so blooming with her
evening exercise. And no one seemed to have the slightest suspicion that Professor
Bhaer, while talking philosophy with the father, was giving the daughter lessons in love.
Jo couldn't even lose her heart in a decorous manner, but sternly tried to quench her
feelings, and failing to do so, led a somewhat agitated life. She was mortally afraid of
being laughed at for surrendering, after her many and vehement declarations of
independence. Laurie was her especial dread, but thanks to the new manager, he behaved
with praiseworthy propriety, never called Mr. Bhaer `a capital old fellow' in public, never
alluded, in the remotest manner, to Jo's improved appearance, or expressed the least
surprise at seeing the Professor's hat on the Marches' table nearly every evening. But he
exulted in private and longed for the time to come when he could give Jo a piece of plate,
with a bear and a ragged staff on it as an appropriate coat of arms.
For a fortnight, the Professor came and went with lover-like regularity. Then he stayed
away for three whole days, and made no sign, a proceeding which caused everybody to
look sober, and Jo to become pensive, at first, and then--alas for romance--very cross.
"Disgusted, I dare say, and gone home as suddenly as he came. It's nothing tome, of
course, but I should think he would have come and bid us good-by like a gentleman," she
said to herself, with a despairing look at the gate, as she put on her things for the
customary walk one dull afternoon.
"You'd better take the little umbrella, dear. It looks like rain," 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 to run in and get some paper," returned Jo, pulling out the bow
under her chin before the glass as an excuse for not looking at her mother.
 
 
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