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This illness was expensive. Percy did not
insist on the house paying for the doctor;
but the thousand little luxuries and the
inevitable waste of a sick-room made sad havoc
with Annie's calculations. Once or twice,
when she was very hard pressed, she
impoverished her husband's dietary. He always
spoke of it, gravely and displeased; and once
he said that he did not approve of her negligence;
which was becoming marked, very
marked, and excessively unpleasant. If she
neglected him, her husband, how could he feel
satisfied that his dear mother, sick and
infirm as she was, and obliged, after her long
life of independence and well-doing, to come
to him for support; how could he feel sure
that she received due attention when he was
away? He was afraid that Annie's motherhood,
instead of opening her heart had narrowed
it. Annie broke her heart, in her
silent quiet little way over these reproaches,
and she inwardly resolved not to offend again,
whatever it cost her, or whatever other means
she must use.

But those horrible bills! She could not
keep them under; not though she cried for
vexation and wounded pride to think what
a bad manager she was, and how unfit to
have the guidance of Percy's household
expenditure. Then her baby wanted some
new frocks; and Annie, true to the instincts
of a young mother, had set her heart on
having them robed and worked and had been
quietly trying to save up for them, little by
little, ever since she sold the pearl brooch,
the companion to the necklace. But to no
purpose. So Annie sold another little trinket,
and another, and another; paid her bills, and
bought her baby six pretty white worked
frocks, and white cashmere pelisse; and
went to bed that night proud and blessed
as a queen; free from debt.

But Mrs Clarke complained to her son that
yesterday her cutlet was tough, and she was
sure Ann bought inferior meat for her, that
she might save for such senseless
extravagance as she had just been committing;
for did he not see how she had bedizened up
that miserable little baby, who would look
much better too, in nice clean prints, instead
of with all those useless fallals about him?
In her day, indeed, such folly was never
thought of, and for her part, she thought
what had been good enough for her children
might be good enough for Ann's. And she
wished Percy would mention it.

Percy was hard, but not small. Provided
things went the way of his ordering, he did
not care to criticise the stages. He soothed
his mother, spoke to Annie about the offending
veal, but said nothing ill-natured of
the frocks. He had not the heart to do
it, with the boy laughing and crowing in
his mother's arms, and kicking out his little
feet, in all freedom of a first day of short

By degrees, every little article of private
property that Annie possessed was swallowed
up by extra housekeeping expenses.
When she had nothing left that she could
appropriate, she had nothing for it but to
dismiss her two servants. She hired a strong,
good-natured maid of all work, clumsy, strong,
and ignorant: one of the tribe who are
prone to fall up-stairs with tea-trays; and
who, if they were not watched, would fry
potatoes in blacking, and lard boots with
the butter. Thus, all the directing fell
to the young mistress, and half the work:
for the girl was too uncouth to do anything
well, or anything of herself. Day by day
she slowly faded and drooped: day by day,
patiently and steadily continuing her work:
her cheeks paler, her eyes dimmer and
larger; the lustre of her warm brown hair
dulled, and its colour faded; the slender
waist shrinking, as the round young throat
grew thin and spare. But there was no one
with eyes so keen, or love so quick to mark
the change; no one to cheer her by kindly
word; no one to help her with sympathy or
aid; no one to step forward to save her.
Unpitied and unnoticed, she dedicated her
precious existence to those who did not love
her, nor care to watch or guard her. Too
heavy a burden had been laid upon her, but
her faithful hands bore it bravely to the
last; and, with all a woman's trust and fortitude,
she neither thought it hard, nor cried
out to be relieved. If she had but spoken!
If Percy had but cared to win her confidence!

At last, one day she failed, She had been
for some hours ironing. when, very quietly,
she gave a deep sigh, and fell fainting to the
ground. The red-armed maid ran screaming
away, and Percy hurried down-stairs. He
found her to all appearance dead on the
kitchen floor; and, taking her in his arms, bore
her tenderly and gently to her room. For he
loved her as much as he could have loved any
wife, and terror frightened him into nature
and demonstration. A doctor was sent for;
Mrs. Clarke snappishly repudiating all idea of
danger, or the necessity of making a fuss
because of such a common thing as a fainting
fit; but, when the doctor came, he looked
grave, ordering his patient to be kept in bed,
and to be most zealously tended; ordering her,
in fact, the attendance of a person dangerously
ill, and for whom the only chance lay in
loving watchfulness and care. But he found
her so extraordinarily reduced, and with such
distinct evidences of organic mischief, that he
himself had but little hope of the result. He
enquired minutely into her life; and the
whole mystery was revealed. She was dying,
literally from fatigue and exhaustion, he told
her husband frankly, but severely.

Percy never left her bedside. Night and
day he nursed her, as she would have nursed
her sick child. But this love had come too
late. Not all his tears could give back the
life which his blindness and hardness had