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, finding it so pleasant to ask confidential questions and get delightful answers that she could not keep silent.
“It was not easy, but I could not find the heart to take you from that so happy home until I could haf a prospect of one to gif you, after much time, perhaps, and hard work. How could I ask you to gif up so much for a poor old fellow, who has no fortune but 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 working for those I love, and don’t call yourself old—forty is the prime of life. I couldn’t help loving you if you were seventy!”
The Professor found that so touching that he would have been glad of his handkerchief, if he could have got at it. As he couldn’t, Jo wiped his eyes for him, and said, laughing, as she took away a bundle or two . . .
“I may be strong-minded, but no one can say I’m out of my sphere now, for woman’s special mission is supposed to be drying tears and bearing burdens. I’m to carry my share, Friedrich, and help to earn the home. Make up your mind to that, or I’ll never 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. Can you forgif that, and be happy while we hope and wait?”
“Yes, I know I can, for we love one another, and that makes all 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, so there’s no need of hurry or impatience. You can do your part out West, I can do mine here, and both be happy hoping for the best, and leaving the future to be as God wills.”
“Ah! Thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands,” cried the Professor, quite overcome.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into his, whispering tenderly, “Not empty now,” and stooping down, kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella. It was dreadful, but she would have done it if the flock of draggle-tailed sparrows on the hedge had been human beings, for she was very far gone indeed, and quite regardless of everything but her own happiness. Though it came in such a very simple guise, that was the crowning moment of both their lives, when, turning from the night and storm and loneliness to the household light and warmth and peace waiting to receive them, with a glad “Welcome home!” Jo led her lover in, and shut the door.