Little Women Chapter 46
Everyone notices changes for the better in Jo's face now that Professor Bhaer is around. Jo has started to fall in love with Bhaer, but tries to stifle her feelings for him. For two weeks, the Professor comes and goes regularly to the March household. The family comes to like him. Jo's father finds in him a kindred spirit, and her mother feels that he is a very kind soul. Then, without a word, the Professor doesn't visit for three days. Jo fears that he has left without saying goodbye.
Every evening Jo takes a walk, and now and then she runs into Professor Bhaer. One evening, Jo is going out for her customary walk. Her mother tells her to bring an umbrella because it looks like rain, asks her to get a few things for her in town, and to give the Professor an invitation to tea if she runs into him.
Jo leaves, forgetting the umbrella, and wanders to the part of town where people usually congregate, a little out of the way of the shops. It starts to rain, and even though she has a new hat she forces herself to keep going in the rain as punishment for forgetting her umbrella. Without noticing at first, she finds Professor Bhaer holding an umbrella over her as she walks. He says that he will go with her on her errands because she needs an umbrella. He offers her his arm and she takes it, telling him she was afraid that he had left and that everyone has missed him. Bhaer tells her that he will leave soon, as he has no more business in the area. He has gotten a professorship at a college out west where he can make enough money to support his nephews.
Jo is a little flustered as they shop, and she buys the wrong things accidentally. Bhaer decides to buy some food for a little feast for her family that evening, as he is leaving them. He asks Jo to help him buy presents for all of the people in the boarding house as well.
On the way home, he notices that Jo is crying and he asks her why. She tells him it is because he is leaving. Professor Bhaer is happy, and he says that that is good. He knows he is in her heart. "'Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you; I came to see if you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was something more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?' he added, all in one breath." Chapter 43, pg. 558 Jo says yes and is plainly happy to spend her life beside him.
The professor confesses to Jo that he has not done this sooner because he did not know whether Laurie was a friend or more than that to Jo. Bhaer had come to visit Jo because of a poem she published anonymously about her sisters that he recognized as hers, and recognized as being lonely.
Jo tears up the poem, saying that although it was heartfelt, it was bad poetry. After all, she say, it has now served its purpose.
Bhaer is to go out west to teach and earn money for a while, and Jo agrees to wait for him until they can get married.