Little Women Chapter 46 Summary
Under the Umbrella
- While Amy and Laurie are furnishing their house, Jo and Mr. Bhaer are taking muddy walks together over the fields in the evening.
- Jo doesn't quite understand what's happening – she usually takes a walk in the evening, and now she somehow meets Mr. Bhaer every time, and he's always going the same direction she is. Hmm, what's going on?
- After a few weeks, Jo's whole family has figured out that Mr. Bhaer is interested in her. Jo herself, however, still doesn't realize it. She also doesn't realize that she's interested in him!
- Jo starts to hum and sing to herself, and do her hair, and takes longer walks than usual. She's totally into this guy.
- Jo is embarrassed by her feelings and tries to stifle them; she really is trying to be an unromantic old maid, just like she told Laurie she would be. She's worried that Laurie will mock her or be angry with her, but Amy keeps him in check.
- For two weeks, the professor and Jo spend almost every day together. Then, with no warning, he goes away for three days.
- Jo is worried and then angry. She assumes that he has left town without saying goodbye.
- One afternoon, Jo decides to walk to town. Her mother gives her a list of things to buy and warns her to take an umbrella, but she forgets. Marmee also tells Jo to bring Mr. Bhaer back to dinner if she sees him.
- Instead of going to the dry goods store to get the sewing supplies her mother needs, Jo walks to the business district where most of the men hang out. She's completely out of place there and wanders around, telling herself that she's not looking for Mr. Bhaer.
- It begins to rain. Jo is wearing her new bonnet and doesn't have an umbrella. She tells herself that getting wet and ruining the bonnet is just what she deserves for going out looking for Mr. Bhaer in this silly way.
- Jo starts to do her errands, but she almost gets hit by a truck rushing across the street. In the confusion she bumps into Mr. Bhaer, who asks if he can go with her to do her errands and shelter her with his umbrella. She agrees.
- Now extremely happy, Jo strolls along with Mr. Bhaer. She notices him looking at her and explains that she's excited to see him because her family thought he had left town. He says he couldn't have left without saying goodbye to them.
- Jo is excited by this, but then finds out that the professor has finished his business in the town and will be leaving soon. He's planning to teach at a college in the West and use the money to help his nephews, Franz and Emil. (He has to go out West to find a job because there's a strong prejudice against his accent and nationality – most universities of the time would discriminate against him. In the western U.S., however, there are so few qualified people available that he'll be able to get a job anyway.)
- Mr. Bhaer is thoroughly confused by Jo's behavior. She's trying not to act too eager, and so sometimes she seems to be brushing him off, but she also seems really disappointed that he's going so far away. He can't figure out whether she's actually interested in him.
- Jo and Mr. Bhaer arrive at the store and Jo buys the things her mother wanted. She's hoping to impress Mr. Bhaer with her shopping skills, but she's really flustered and messes up the transaction.
- After they're done, Mr. Bhaer suggests that they buy some fancy food and flowers for his last meal with the March family. He pays for everything himself, although Jo vetoes wine – her family doesn't approve of drinking.
- Mr. Bhaer asks Jo to do him a special favor. Jo's heart practically skips a beat, but it turns out that the favor is to help him pick out a dress for Tina and a shawl for her mother.
- Jo picks out the clothes and they start on their way home. Jo is scatterbrained and upset, drops the flowers, tries to get on the wrong bus, and is generally mixed up.
- Mr. Bhaer asks Jo what's wrong. She starts crying and says she's upset because he's leaving.
- This is all the encouragement Mr. Bhaer needs to propose to Jo. She immediately accepts him. It's not an especially romantic proposal – they're carrying a bunch of packages, and it's raining and muddy, and Jo's bonnet is ruined and Mr. Bhaer's gloves have holes in them. But somehow it works, because they do love each other. (It's OK, gag if you need to!)
- Jo and Mr. Bhaer – well, we better call him Friedrich now – Jo and Friedrich walk slowly to her parents' house. Jo asks him why he didn't propose, or at least tell her that he loved her, sooner. Like, you know, when they were living in the same boarding house in New York. He says that he thought she was interested in Laurie. Jo laughs and explains that her feelings for Laurie are entirely platonic.
- Then Jo asks Friedrich why he did come to see her at last. He shows her a poem that she wrote and lost, which he found in the boarding house. The poem is about four trunks in the Marches' attic, one belonging to each girl. In the description of Jo's trunk, there's a hint that she's waiting for someone to love her.
- Jo is embarrassed by the poem and tears it up. Mr. Bhaer explains that the poem made him realize that she was hungry for love, and he decided to go and offer his to her.
- Finally, Jo asks one more question – why did he take so long to tell her all this? Because, he says, he wanted to have enough money to be able to offer her a comfortable home. Now that he has this new job out West, that's a possibility.
- Jo comforts Friedrich and tells him that she is used to poverty and hard work, and even likes them.
- Jo and Friedrich decide to have a long-distance relationship for the next few years. Each of them will work and store up money, and they'll prepare themselves to get married sometime in the future.
- Famous scene alert: Friedrich worries that he has nothing to give Jo but his empty hands. She puts her hands in his and tells him they're not empty now.
- They kiss – in public! – and then Jo leads Friedrich into her parents' house to tell everyone the good news.
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