“She cannot live.”
He found it difficult to repress a rising sob, but he did so for his mother’s sake. He thought that it might affect her injuriously if he should display emotion.
His mother smiled faintly as he approached the bed.
“Mother,” said Frank, kneeling by the bedside, “are you very weak?”
“Yes, Frank,” she answered, almost in a whisper. “I think I am going to leave you.”
“Oh, don’t say that, mother!” burst forth in anguish from Frank’s lips. “Try to live for my sake.”
“I should like to live, my dear boy,” whispered his mother; “but if it is God’s will that I should die, I must be reconciled. I leave you in his care.”
Here Mr. Manning entered the room.
“You will be kind to my boy?” said the dying mother.
“Can you doubt it, my dear?” replied her husband, in the soft tones Frank so much disliked. “I will care for him as if he were my own.”
“Thank you. Then I shall die easy.”
“Don’t speak any more, mother. It will tire you, and perhaps bring on another hemorrhage.”
“Frank is right, my dear. You had better not exert yourself any more at present.”
“Didn’t Mark come with you?” asked Mr. Manning of Frank.
“I am surprised that he should not have done so. I sent for him as well as you.”
“I believe he is coming by the next train,” said Frank, indifferently. “He thought he could not get ready in time for my train.”
“He should not have left you to come at such a time.”
“I didn’t wish him to inconvenience himself, Mr. Manning. If it had been his mother, it would have been different.”
Mr. Manning did not reply. He understood very well that there was no love lost between Mark and his stepson.
Early in the evening Mark made his appearance. Supper had been over for an hour, and everything was cold. In a house where there is sickness, the regular course of things is necessarily interrupted, and, because he could not have his wants attended to immediately, Mark saw fit to grumble and scold the servants. He was not a favorite with them, and they did not choose to be bullied.
Deborah, who had been in the house for ten years, and so assumed the independence of an old servant, sharply reprimanded the spoiled boy.
“You ought to be ashamed, Mr. Mark,” she said, “of making such a fuss when my poor mistress lies upstairs at the point of death.”
“Do you know who you are talking to?” demanded Mark, imperiously, for he could, when speaking with those whom he regarded as inferiors, exchange his soft tones for a voice of authority.
“I ought to know by this time,” answered Deborah, contemptuously. “There is no other in the house like you, I am glad to say.”