46. CHAPTER FORTY-SIX
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.